Labour leadership: best of Ed Miliband and Tony Blair will help us win, says Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham Labour

Andy Burnham, the frontrunner in the Labour party leadership contest, claims that he can win back power in five years by building on the best of both Tony Blair and Ed Miliband, in what will be seen as a rebuke to those who have condemned both the former leaders.

Before the first televised leadership hustings on Wednesday, the shadow health secretary says there has been an understandably “negative feel” to the debate since Labour lost the general election, but the party must now draw on the positive lessons of its recent history.

In an echo of Blair’s 1996 conference speech prioritising “education, education, education”, Burnham will champion equality in recognition and funding between those going on to technical education or university as one of the ways in which he will stamp his mark on the party and country.

In an article for the Observer, he writes that the emphasis on education ties in with his intention to prioritise the universal concerns of “a secure job; a decent home; a good standard of living; prospects for their kids; and proper care for their parents”. Burnham also makes a thinly-veiled attack on the right-wing candidate, Liz Kendall, by warning against merely “copying the Tories”.

The simple agenda of “helping everyone get on”, whether they are on middle incomes or “people with the least”, is the answer to Labour’s electoral problems, Burnham writes. “It is undoubtedly true that Tony Blair had a message that resonated with families in the middle,” he says. “But it also true that Ed Miliband succeeded in getting through to people with least … in places, Labour secured some of the most impressive results it has ever had. Just look at my good friend Steve Rotheram MP in Liverpool Walton, re-elected with a staggering 82% of the vote ... We will win when we combine the best of Tony and Ed, when we stop debating which group of voters to focus on, and when we speak convincingly and passionately to the aspirations of everyone ...

“This is what I’ve always been about. What brought me into politics in the first place was the sense of injustice I developed on my journey from a Merseyside comprehensive to Cambridge University. It brought home to me just how much harder it is for some to make their way in this world than others.”

Burnham’s campaign was boosted last week by the support of a former director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer MP, who some see as a future leader, and the shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, a Blairite. Jamie Reed, the MP for Copeland, has launched a #blairites4burnham campaign on social media.

On Monday Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will set out in a speech a key tenet of her vision for the country, with a new mission for Labour to end child poverty. She will admit that it was absent from the 2015 Labour manifesto, but will also attack the “lamentable failure” of the current Tory government to address the issue.The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that nearly five million British children will be living in absolute poverty after housing costs by 2020-21 under current government policies. In 1999 Blair launched a 20-year mission which saw absolute poverty fall from 42% in 97-98 to 27% in 09-10.

Cooper will say this work has been abandoned by the Tories, but that under her Labour would legislate to require the Office of Budget Responsibility to assess the impact of budget measures on child poverty. She will also propose a rise in the minimum wage, a “revolution” in childcare and doing more to help parents into work.

“I want a Britain in the 2020s which is lifting children out of poverty and helping them on, not knocking them back. That’s why as a country we should be pledging to end child poverty in a generation,” Cooper will say.Yesterday Labour announced the shortlist of Labour candidates to fight the London mayoral election in 2016. They are Diane Abbott, Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, Christian Wolmar and Gareth Thomas.

Thomas, the MP for Harrow West, will publish a draft London devolution bill shortly to set out how more powers should be given to the capital.

Meanwhile, 68 Labour MPs have established a group called Labour Yes to press the case for remaining part of the EU. It will be chaired by Pat Glass, Labour MP for North West Durham, and Phil Wilson, MP for Sedgefield – Blair’s former constituency – with the aim of highlighting the Labour values that are progressed by continued membership.

Powered by article was written by Daniel Boffey Policy editor, for The Observer on Saturday 13th June 2015 21.50 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010