Burnham says “change is needed” as mayor criticises Thatcherite “chaos”

Elliot Chappell

Andy Burnham has said that “change is needed” in the way that “essential services” such as transport and utilities are provided as the mayor warned that the “Thatcherism” promised by Conservative leadership candidates has caused “chaos”.

In a Sky News interview this morning, asked whether energy companies in the UK should be nationalised “for now”, the mayor of Greater Manchester told viewers that there is “a case for more public control, more public ownership, of essential utilities”.

“I’ve listened to the leadership debate in the Tory Party this summer and they’ve both been promising more Thatcherism. Well, as far as I’m concerned, that is what got us into the mess that we’re in right now,” he said.

“When we sold off the water, sold off the electricity, sold off the gas, sold off the council homes, sold off the buses, sold off the trains we found ourselves in a position where ordinary people can’t afford those basics anymore, those essentials and therefore change is needed in the way that we provide those essential services.”

Burnham highlighted that a bus fare cap, of £2 on a single adult fare, will be introduced in Greater Manchester from next Monday. The reduced fare is expected to save bus passengers around 50% on some journeys.

He added: “The talk I’ve heard this summer of more deregulation, more privatisation – that has left us in a position where we’ve had chaos on our trains, buses that people can’t afford and raw sewage on our beaches and that is why change is needed.”

The mayor also told viewers that he would join a picket line with RMT general secretary Mick Lynch because “people are fighting for their incomes in a cost-of-living crisis”.

“I would – I don’t see this as controversial,” he said. “You’ve got to recognise the point they are making. They are going to work but they don’t have enough to live on. I would say particularly to the government and if it is to be Liz Truss as the next Prime Minister: get round the table.

“We’ve had a whole summer of making the unions responsible for everything – all kinds of unhelpful rhetoric. You need to get round the table and there needs to be sector by sector deals here that are fair to people and to keep the country running.”

Asked whether Keir Starmer is “the right man for the job”, Burnham said: “Yes he is and I think what you can see is the support for him in the polls is making that clear. He did intervene in the summer with the policy of a price freeze and that is a very good start.”

The Labour Party announced earlier this month that it would freeze gas and electricity prices immediately, keeping the energy price cap at its current level of £1,971 until April – a move it said would save the typical household £1,000.

The party said the proposal could be paid for in part by making changes to the windfall tax, including backdating the tax to include excess profits made since January and closing a loophole allowing tax relief on investment in the North Sea.

“I would say there is a case to go further as I’ve said this morning… You say I’m saying different things [to Starmer], well I’m in a different job. I’m not in Westminster, Kay, I’m in a role to speak up for Greater Manchester and that’s different to any politician in Westminster so I will come to different judgements,” he added.

“As I look at it right now, when I listen to people in Greater Manchester who tell me they’re scared about what’s coming, who tell me already that they’ve turned every appliance off in their home – they’re cooking via their microwave and nothing else – it’s my job to respond to what they’re saying and actually then put forward policies that I think will support them.”

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