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Andy Burnham to run for Greater Manchester mayor

The shadow home secretary faces a tough battle, but he has a real chance. 

By Stephen Bush

Labour’s shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, will enter the race to be Labour’s mayoral candidate next year’s inaugural election to the role of Greater Manchester mayor. He has retooled his official Twitter campaign from his failed bid for the Labour leadership as @Andy4Manchester and will give a speech in Manchester tomorrow.

Burnham, who finished second in the 2015 leadership election having finished fourth in 2010, will face heavyweight opposition in his bid to secure Labour’s selection. (The election itself is widely believed to be a slam-dunk for Labour.)

Many Manchester activists are sceptical of his run, with one flatly stating that “the first mayor of Greater Manchester cannot be a Scouser”, and another deriding Burnham as “a professional Scouser” who would be better off running for the role of Merseyside mayor, which is also up for grabs.

However, scepticism of Burnham’s candidacy in Manchester itself is not shared in the entirety of the conurbation that the new Mayor will run. In addition to the city of Manchester, the new Mayor’s writ extends to nine other local authorities: Stockport, Trafford, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Wigan, Oldham, Salford and Tameside. There is an appetite among Labour party activists elsewhere in the region to avoid the new Mayor being too Manchester-focused, which is why many were keen for Jim McMahon, formerly leader of Oldham Council and now MP for Oldham West and Royton, to throw his hat in the ring. Burnham – whose seat of Leigh is in Greater Manchester – may now be able to appeal to those voters.

But Tony Lloyd, the interim mayor of Greater Manchester, and Labour MP from 1983 to 2012, when he stepped down to run for the position of Police and Crime Commissioner, is widely considered to be the favourite. He has secured the backing of Unite, whose political operation is particularly effective in the North West, and has most of the institutional backing of the party’s power-brokers in the region.

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Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South, meanwhile, is believed to have raised more money than his rivals and is already advertising to party members on Facebook. He is thought likely to secure the votes of much of the Bury Labour party. His policy approach is similar to that of Richard Leese, the mayor of Manchester city council. Leese is unable to contest the post himself as he has a police caution and the post includes the powers and restrictions of a Police and Crime Commissioner. 

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Although Labour have yet to make a regional breakdown of its leadership results publicly available, Burnham came top of the pack in constituency Labour party nominations in the conurbation, which proved a fairly accurate barometer of membership sentiment. Burnham took 10 of the 27 constituencies, with Jeremy Corbyn and Yvette Cooper taking five each, while a further seven declined to nominate.

If Burnham is successfully elected, it would trigger a scramble for his safe seat of Leigh, however, coming boundary changes may make the post less attractive, as the sitting MP will likely have to fight a selection battle against the neighbouring MP, Barbara Keeley.