Anderson, who has been mayor of the city of Burnham’s birth since 2012, described the Labour frontbencher’s assertion that the role of metro mayor was a “cabinet-level job requiring cabinet-level experience” as “the most ignorant and insensitive comment anybody could actually make because it is disrespectful to every local government leader who has worked hard for their area”.
Burnham made the remark while launching his bid to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester last month. He argued that Labour should field its “biggest names” for mayoral jobs and said the party’s failure to do the same when devolution came to Scotland was a mistake.
“Let me say to Andy Burnham and other shadow cabinet members, whether they’re standing or not: a Labour government should have pushed on this agenda of devolution,” said Anderson in an interview with Society Guardian.
“It’s a sad reflection on the Labour party that we’re having to do business with a Tory government who are cutting and bludgeoning us on the one hand, but at least they’re moving in a pragmatic way to devolve power.”
A spokesperson for Burnham said: “The mayor of Greater Manchester is a very different job, including running the NHS and police. The mayor needs in-depth knowledge of the NHS – something that Andy Burnham has from his time as health secretary.”
Anderson announced his intention to stand to be the mayor of the Liverpool city region last month, a role that comes with considerably more powers than the current mayoral role.
He was first elected as a Liverpool city councillor in 1988, became leader of the Labour group on the council in 2003 and leader of the council in 2010. He was elected into the current mayoral role in 2012.
Anderson faces a battle with Luciana Berger, MP for Liverpool Wavertree and shadow minister for mental health, and Steve Rotheram, the MP for Liverpool Walton, to secure the Labour nomination in the city region. In announcing her candidacy on Tuesday, Berger became the second member of the shadow cabinet to launch a bid for a northern English mayoralty.
Labour’s dominance of the area means that whoever wins the party’s nomination is likely to win the overall competition. Ten thousand party members across Merseyside and Halton will vote for their preferred candidate later this year before mayoral elections in May 2017.
Anderson said he was proud of the fact that senior MPs were showing interest in doing a job that he had campaigned for years to create, but said it was “up to them and their consciences” whether they wanted to stand against experienced local government candidates.
“We’ve been dealing with cuts. It’s Labour leaders in local government who have been delivering progressive policies. We’ve built 15 new schools that I’m proud of and I don’t need anyone to come and tell us what to do,” said Anderson, adding: “If we were 25% ahead in opinion polls nationally, I wonder whether we would have the same interest [in this role].”
On Berger as a candidate, he said: “I welcome Luciana Berger being in the race, as a woman. [She and Rotheram] feel they’ve got something to offer and it’s not for me to say they haven’t.”
This article was written by Frances Perraudin North of England reporter, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st June 2016 06.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010