Blunkett backs Burnham in Labour race
Posted by Ian at 2 00 AM on Sunday, May 23
LABOUR leadership contender Andy Burnham will this week be endorsed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett.
The former Home Secretary is the biggest of the Party’s elder statesmen to break cover and endorse one of the leadership candidates.
Mr Burnham, who was Gordon Brown’s Health Secretary, last night told the News of the World he is the only candidate capable of winning back the working and middle class voters who deserted the Labour Party in the 2010 election.
He said: “We have got to reach out to that key group of voters who felt we were no longer on their side.
“We shouldn’t disown our record and there is a lot to be proud of.
“But people who were working hard and trying to do the right thing found that Labour was no longer on their side. They were concerned about benefits, angry at the decision to scrap the 10p tax rate, frustrated about housing, law and order and education.”
Mr Blunkett is understood to think that the other leading candidates - David and Ed Miliband and Ed Balls - are too obsessed with working out why Labour lost middle class voters.
Last night he said: “It is absolutely crucial that we fight the next election and the one after that - not refight the 2005 and 2010 elections, which is always a danger in contests of this sort.
“I'm also extremely keen that there should be the widest possible field and that this should include candidates with a vision of the future.
“That's why I've indicated that I'm prepared to nominate Andy Burnham, to widen the field and to provide a genuine debate which reflects the different elements not just of the Labour Party but, more crucially, of the electorate on which we will be reliant for a return to office.”
And another friend of Mr Burnham added: “Andy would be happy to be seen as the candidate from outside the political chattering classes.”
Mr Burnham added: “Throughout my life I have always had this fear that someone would put their hand on my shoulder and tell me this world was not for me.
“That is why I have always had a passion for opening doors for people - providing people who do not get the same head start in life with opportunities.”
Mr Burnham also refused to join Ed Balls and Ed Miliband in describing the Iraq was as “catastrophic” for Britain and the country, insisting voters were more concerned about what Labour is going to do in future to help them.
As Mr Burnham set out his stall, the battle between the other candidates has become,e increasingly dirty.
Speaking at a rally in London yesterday, David Miliband warned: “In the 1980s debate (in the Labour Party) was a code for civil war.
“So the result was a model of leadership based on discipline not dialogue.
“It was in some ways necessary; but it contained the seeds of its own destruction; a political party that is not a living breathing movement does not become a permanent party of government; it is on the road to opposition.
“And that is what happened to us. We won election on May 1 1997; we stopped party renewal on May 2 1997.”
However, MPs supporting his brother, Ed Miliband, were last week busy telling colleagues they were the “Stop David campaign”.
One former Cabinet Minister told the News of the World: “I got a call from a colleague who asked me why I was thinking of helping Jon Cruddas.
“He said Ed was the only one who could stop David Miliband, and that had to be the only priority.”