Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP who disappointed many party activists by refusing to stand for the party leadership, has given a personal boost to Andy Burnham’s campaign by endorsing the shadow health secretary.
The endorsement from one of the key figures in the 2010 intake follows the decision of the shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, to support the Burnham campaign. Securing the backing of Reeves and Jarvis is a coup for Burnham and his campaign manager Michael Dugher.
A buzz had grown about Jarvis’s own leadership qualities but the former paratrooper, the MP for Barnsley Central, decided at the outset of the contest to succeed Ed Miliband that his family commitments meant he could not stand for leader at present.
It is thought that Burnham has more than 70 nominations in the parliamentary Labour party and the breadth of his support is beginning to make it difficult for some of the other candidates such as Tristam Hunt, the shadow education secretary, and even Liz Kendall, the shadow health minister, to gather the 35 nominations from MPs they need to get on the ballot paper.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, due to make a speech on Tuesday promising to restore party links with business if elected leader, is thought to have secured as many as 50 nominations. Many other MPs have said they will not nominate at this stage and would wait to see the candidates perform at the June hustings.
Two leading figures from the Blair government, Lord Hutton, the former defence secretary, and Lady Morgan, a former Downing Street adviser, said it would be wrong if the threshold of 35 nominations from MPs meant only Cooper and Burnham made the ballot paper.
Morgan, an adviser to Tony Blair for 10 years, said: “We have just suffered a catastrophic election defeat and need the widest possible debate about how we rebuild support for the party. To try to close down that debate prematurely is both arrogant and plain wrong.”
Hutton, a former Labour business secretary, said: “Labour is facing a very deep crisis and can no longer exist to appeal to a diminishing trade union vote. We need a big debate we have been of deprived for the past five years and that requires more than two candidates. I have already said we need to skip a generation and MPs have a duty to provide a debate the party so badly needs.”
Kendall became the first Labour leadership candidate to challenge the Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, telling him to stop threatening Labour. But she also promised she would repeal any laws passed in this parliament designed to weaken employee rights.
Kendall’s efforts to balance an appeal to trade unionists, while challenging the attitude of some union leaders is clearly designed to show her criticism of union leaders does not reflect a lack of interest in workplace rights.
McCluskey raised the prospect at the weekend of his union disaffiliating from the Labour party if the members voted for a candidate who did not support the interests of the working class. But on Monday, he appeared to backtrack saying there was no chance Unite would disaffiliate.
In a letter to trade unionists, Kendall writes: “Trade unions helped found the Labour party, and if I am elected as leader that link will never be broken. On the contrary, I want to strengthen your relationship with the Labour party so I will not tolerate those inside or outside our movement who want to put that relationship at risk.
“Rather than being dominated by unhelpful threats about withdrawing funding or backing other parties, let this leadership election give a voice to the many trade union members who now face a fresh assault on their rights at work because Labour failed to beat the Tories in the election. That includes union members who chose not vote Labour this time. I also want to hear from working people who have not yet joined a trade union, and understand why that is.
“I will tolerate no weakening of protections for working people or the basic rights of trade unions while I’m leader. If they’re implemented by this Tory government, the Labour government I will lead will reverse them.”
Her promise came as Cooper promised to reset the party’s relationship with business, saying thatMiliband’s rhetoric dividing business between predators and producers had been mistaken.
She promised to back the government plans to cut corporation tax and vowed she would set up a prominent business advisory group – free of party politics - to advise her as party leader.
Cooper will say: “Too often in the past our rhetoric undermined that positive relationship with business, and with the creation of jobs and wealth for the future. People knew how we wanted to stop exploitation in the workplace, but not how we’d grow our workplaces to create more jobs and stronger growth. They knew we wanted to stop consumers being ripped off, but weren’t convinced we also wanted businesses to grow and flourish. We can’t let that happen again.
“There will be dialogue and discussions about what works, rather than rude surprises that backfire.
“We can’t be set against the government’s recent cut in corporation tax for the future. Our rhetoric can’t be set against the wealth creators and drivers of our future economic growth. We can’t be set against business, and too many believed we were.”
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