Labour party conference is too London-centric, says Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

The Labour party conference is too “London-centric” to give a strong voice to people in the north of England, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said.

Burnham, one of Labour’s most senior elected politicians, spoke out after he and other northern regional leaders were denied slots to speak to members in the main hall.

“It’s not about me having a divine right to speak at conference, but it disappoints me that there’s no prominent northern voice from one of the cities speaking,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics. “It’s not a Jeremy criticism by the way, it’s institutional,” Burnham added, pointing out that he had raised the same concerns under other party leaders.

“The party is too London-centric … It isn’t thinking enough about getting a strong message to those voters in the north.”

His comments are an escalation of the row within Labour over speaking slots at its gathering in Brighton, which started on Sunday.

The party decided to cut down on the number of senior politicians speaking to give more time to ordinary delegates wanting to address the conference floor.

But the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was granted a speaking slot at the last minute after the conference arrangements committee overruled an earlier decision to exclude him.

Delegates spoke from the floor on both sides of the argument, but the proposed schedule was voted through without change on Sunday morning.

Burnham’s criticism of the party comes as Labour’s election coordinator, Andrew Gwynne, acknowledged that it needed to do more to win back some previously held working-class seats at the next election.

Speaking to Sunday Politics, he said: “Well of course it was a mixed picture around the country. My own constituency is a very white, working-class constituency, and the Labour vote went up by 12.5%. But I do recognise that we have to win those constituencies that in the past we have won to form a Labour government.

“And I accept that. And that is why one of the first things that we’ve done is we’ve carried on with the campaigning that we had over the general election.”

Gwynne later told a Huffington Post fringe event that Labour had been seen to be too “distant from some of the communities we represent”.

However, the Denton and Reddish MP said the party would be ready for the next general election whenever it came, while predicting that it could take place within the next six months.

Gwynne also argued that it would be morally indefensible for the Conservatives to change leader without another vote.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rowena Mason Deputy political editor, for theguardian.com on Sunday 24th September 2017 14.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010