Andy, you're a star. Photo: Getty Images
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We've got two choices in this leadership race: unify around Andy, or fall apart under Jeremy Corbyn

Kendall backer Jonny Reynolds says that the numbers are clear: Andy Burnham is the only candidate left who can stop Jeremy Corbyn. 

The leadership contest is drawing to a close and finally all 600,000 of us who are registered will get to cast our votes and help set a new direction for the Party.

I am proud to have been an early backer of Liz Kendall and proud of the campaign she has fought. She will receive my first preference. But I also feel a responsibility to say where I will cast my second preference. Along with Toby Perkins, Gloria de Piero and many other Liz supporters I will be giving my second preference to Andy Burnham.

Andy is the public’s choice for Labour leader and with the huge task ahead to win in 2015 I believe electing the public’s choice, and the leader who most voters say will make Labour electable again,is the right thing to do.

But there is something even more important than that. This contest has become a battle for the unity of our party. United parties are strong oppositions and are better placed to win elections. Divided parties are weak and lose.

I believe this election has become a straight choice for the Labour party between unity and division. If Labour does not now unite around Andy Burnham then it will divide under Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy is a decent man and has run a principled campaign but it is clear that his leadership of the Labour party would risk leaving us with years of looking inwards, fighting each other, when the country desperately needs Labour looking outwards and fighting the Tories.

Only Andy Burnham can now beat Jeremy Corbyn. That much is clear. The polls show Jeremy ahead but many members are still making up their minds between Jeremy and Andy. If Andy is knocked out then enough of his second preferences will transfer to Jeremy that Jeremy will certainly win. But if Andy and Jeremy both make the run-off then I believe Andy has the broad appeal across the party to win this election. I urge all those who want to keep our party united and don’t believe a Corbyn victory will do this to lend Andy their support.

Andy Burnham can unite our party and draw on the best talents from right across Labour. One Labour party, taking the fight to the Tories. That is what Andy Burnham offers and it is why he will get my second preference vote.

Jonathan Reynolds is Labour/Coop MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and Chair of Christians on the Left.

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Why Jeremy Corbyn’s evolution on Brexit matters for the Scottish Labour party

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, an ideological ally of Corbyn, backs staying in the customs union. 

Evolution. A long, slow, almost imperceptible process driven by brutal competition in a desperate attempt to adapt to survive. An accurate description then by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, of Labour’s shifting, chimera of a Brexit policy. After an away day that didn’t decamp very far at all, there seems to have been a mutation in Labour’s policy on customs union. Even McDonnell, a long-term Eurosceptic, indicated that Labour may support Tory amendments when the report stages of the customs and trade bills are finally timetabled by the government (currently delayed) to remain in either “The” or “A” customs union.

This is a victory of sorts for Europhiles in the Shadow Cabinet like Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer. But it is particularly a victory for Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. A strong ally of Jeremy Corbyn who comes from the same Bennite tradition, Leonard broke cover last month to call for exactly such a change to policy on customs union.

Scotland has a swathe of marginal Labour-SNP seats. Its voters opted voted by a majority in every constituency to Remain. While the Scottish National Party has a tendency to trumpet this as evidence of exceptionalism – Scotland as a kind-of Rivendell to England’s xenophobic Mordor – it’s clear that a more Eurocentric, liberal hegemony dominates Scottish politics. Scotland’s population is also declining and it has greater need of inward labour through migration than England. It is for these reasons that the SNP has mounted a fierce assault on Labour’s ephemeral EU position.

At first glance, the need for Labour to shift its Brexit position is not as obvious as Remainers might have it. As the Liberal Democrat experience in last year’s general election demonstrates, if you want to choose opposing Brexit as your hill to die on… then die you well may. This was to some extent replicated in the recent Scottish Labour Leadership race. Anas Sarwar, the centrist challenger, lost after making Brexit an explicit dividing line between himself and the eventual winner, Leonard. The hope that a juggernaut of Remainer fury might coalesce as nationalist resentment did in 2015 turned out to be a dud. This is likely because for many Remainers, Europe is not as high on their list of concerns as other matters like the NHS crisis. They may, however, care about it however when the question is forced upon them.

And it very well might be forced. One day later this year, the shape of a deal on phase two of the negotiations will emerge and Parliament will have to vote, once and for all, to accept or reject a deal. This is both a test and an incredible political opportunity. Leonard, a Scottish Labour old-timer, believes a deal will be rejected and lead to a general election.

If Labour is to win such an election resulting from a parliamentary rejection of the Brexit deal, it will need many of those marginal seats in Scotland. The SNP is preparing by trying to box Labour in. Last month its Westminster representatives laid a trap. They invited Corbyn to take part in anti-Brexit talks of opposition parties he had no choice but to reject. In Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon has been ripping into the same flank that Sarwar opened against Richard Leonard in the leadership contest, branding Labour’s Brexit position “feeble”. At the same time the Scottish government revealed a devastating impact assessment to accompany the negative forecasts leaked from the UK government. If Labour is leading a case against a “bad deal”,  it cannot afford to be seen to be SNP-lite.

The issue will likely come to a head at the Scottish Labour Conference early next month, since local constituency parties have already sent a number of pro-EU and single market motions to be debated there. They could be seen as a possible challenge to the leadership’s opposition to the single market or a second referendum. That is, If these motions make it to debate, unlike at national Labour Conference in 2017, where there seemed to be an organised attempt to prevent division.

When Leonard became leader, he stressed co-operation with the Westminster leadership. Still, unlike the dark “Branch Office” days of the recent past, Scottish Labour seems to be wielding some influence in the wider party again. And Scottish Labour figures will find allies down south. In January, Thornberry used a Fabian Society speech in Edinburgh, that Enlightenment city, to call for a dose of Scottish internationalism in foreign policy. With a twinkle in her eye, she fielded question after question about Brexit. “Ah…Brexit,” she joked. “I knew we’d get there eventually”. Such was Thornberry’s enthusiasm that she made the revealing aside that: “If I was not in the Leadership, then I’d probably be campaigning to remain in the European Union.”