Andy Burnham pitches to Labour leadership voters in NI: comprehensive not selective education, gay blood, & candidates

This morning’s Belfast Telegraph publishes a statement from UK Labour leadership contender Andy Burnham. He’s the bookies’ favourite to come second, and clearly the candidate the local Constituency Labour Party members are most comfortable with.

610,000 ballot papers have been issued to party members, registered supporters and affiliate supporters. There are around 500 1,000 members of the Labour Party in NI, but an unknown number of registered or affiliate supporters.

Andy Burnham links to Scotland Wales Northern IrelandHeavily tailored for the NI audience, Burnham’s statement remarks on his pride in “family roots in the North of Ireland”. As leader he’d campaign for the 2020 General Election “on true Labour values and with bold Labour policies” if they can “be seen as a credible Party of government and … rebuild trust on the economy”.

For people in Northern Ireland, the prospect of another five years of Tory-imposed austerity must be extremely worrying. I believe that we can build a credible economic alternative to the Tories. An alternative approach based on a high-wage, high-skill economy; an economy that drives growth through a new industrial strategy and where trade unions are recognised as partners, not enemies, by government.

As leader he promises that the Labour Party in NI would have his “full support” in campaigning against the continued existence of selective education in NI.

I also believe in a truly comprehensive education system with opportunity for every child that isn’t determined by the postcode of the bed they are born in.

Burnham acknowledges LPNI campaigning on “the whole area of sexual and gender rights in Northern Ireland” which, he says, “needs to take a major step forward”. It’s an issue he has addressed in the Commons and in previous interviews.

I have been highly critical in Parliament of Jeremy Hunt for his refusal to support equality across the UK in respect of blood donation from gay men and, as Leader, I will use every opportunity to press the Tory Government on these fundamental issues of equality and rights.

Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, who recently told the West Belfast Talks Back audience that he would not use his position as leader to lobby the National Executive Committee to review the party’s policy on not standing candidates in Northern Ireland, Andy Burnham would support “an immediate review of the current prohibition”.

I am a long term supporter of the principle that the members of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland should have the right to decide when and where they want to stand candidates in elections. If those members decide that at election time the people of Northern Ireland need a socialist, non-sectarian party to vote for, a party that can appeal to people of all classes and to people of all faiths or none, then we should not stand in their way.

He added that the review would “seek the views of the Irish Labour Party and others, as to how best we can assist the very many Labour Party members and supporters in Northern Ireland”.

Burnham’s statement finishes:

The uncomfortable truth is that too many people look at our Party and see an out of touch Westminster elite. Unless we have a Leader who can reconnect our Party with the people whose trust we’ve lost, we won’t be implementing any of our policies – because nobody will be listening to what we have to offer.

I want the people of Northern Ireland to make their voices heard in the Labour Party and if I am elected Leader, I’ll ensure that the Party is listening.

In other news, Yvette Cooper has called for Andy Burnham to pull out of the leadership election since – in her eyes – he doesn’t offer a clear alternative to Jeremy Corbyn. Nothing like a candidate in third place trying to distract the runner ahead to sneak up the medal table …

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