Burnham considering a run for Manchester mayor – so should he stay or go?


Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham is considering seeking the Labour nomination for the contest to be Manchester mayor, it emerged last night. The new post will be part of George Osborne’s “devolution revolution” settlement with Greater Manchester, which will see a host of powers for health, transport and planning handed to the region.

Burnham is staying in the shadow Cabinet for now but, as he weighs up several approaches from local MPs, here are five reasons to stand for the mayoralty and five more to stay put as shadow Home Secretary.

Reasons to head to Manchester

  1. He is highly likely to win the selection. As a likeable and respected MP with a genuine commitment to the North West – as shown through his longstanding campaigning for the Hillsborough families – it is hard to see him failing to win the Labour candidacy. Interim mayor Tony Lloyd and Ivan Lewis, the other candidate, do not have such a high profile.
  2. He is even more likely to win the election. It would be a huge upset if Manchester’s first elected mayor was anything other than a Labour mayor.
  3. He has twice lost the race for leadership of the Labour Party. When he stood against both Miliband brothers in 2010 he put in a respectable showing. When he stood again last year he started out as favourite but lost to Jeremy Corbyn’s unprecedented surge. He might feel his chances of being leader are now much-reduced.
  4. He has a wealth of experience. Burnham is one of the few shadow Cabinet ministers to have experience in government. Under Blair and Brown he accumulated a wealth of experience as  Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Culture Secretary and Health Secretary.
  5. It is a huge opportunity to exercise power. With Labour having lost two general elections decisively and now struggling to build a significant lead in the national polls for Westminster voting, it is an opportunity to deliver change soon rather than wait for 2020 or 2025. And Manchester needs a strong “devo” mayor to stand up to Osborne.

Reasons to stay in Westminster

  1. Labour needs him in Parliament. With the party likely to win in Manchester anyway, he is one of the shadow Cabinet’s biggest-hitters and we need him in a national role at a time of immense change in the membership and the PLP and after some disappointing local election results.
  2. He pledged to serve in Corbyn’s shadow Cabinet for as long as the leader wished. While Burnham is a man of decency and integrity who has not caused problems for Corbyn, his departure would inevitably prompt accusations he is fleeing a sinking ship.
  3. The NHS looks close to crisis. Osborne has talked a good game on funding the health service but the reality is stark: financial pressures are rising, the junior doctors’ dispute has run for months and nurses’ jobs are under threat.
  4. Labour could still win the 2020 election. Of course, a quick look at the majority of British newspapers suggest otherwise but the Tories face several risks: a change of prime minister, an economic slowdown and mounting evidence – from tax breaks for the rich to harsh spending cuts – that the “nasty party” is on its way back.
  5. The new breed of “devo” mayors are a leap into the unknown. We know, however, that Osborne does not give away power lightly and the high-profile regional posts could turn out to be a way of devolving responsibility for yet more spending cuts to the leaders of northern Labour cities.
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