Burnham loses support from union branch

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

ANDY Burnham’s leadership bid has been dealt a shock blow as members within his own constituency have opted to back a rival.

The Leigh branch of Unite, the workers’ union, has announced its support for veteran Jeremy Corbyn after a chapter meeting.

Chairman Stephen Hall said members do not see Mr Burnham or fellow candidates Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall as representative of “the country’s biggest trade unions.”

He added: “We think every Unite member, and every other trades unionist, who is eligible and wants to take part, should do so and should support our union’s call to back Mr Corbyn.

“We discussed the Labour leadership issue at length at our last branch meeting and fully support our union’s policy nationally, which is to back Mr Corbyn.” A recent poll by YouGov and The Times, placed the Islington North MP as the surprise frontrunner in the party leadership race.

It predicted the left-wing firebrand would pip Mr Burnham, the shadow health secretary, to the post after second and third preference votes are re-distributed.

Mr Burnham has the backing of borough MPs Yvonne Fovargue and Lisa Nandy. And the Makerfield constituency Labour Party has also backed him this week.

But Mr Hall added: “(Interim leader) Harriet Harman has asked members not to choose ‘somebody who we feel comfortable with’ but someone who can ‘command the confidence of the country’. The trouble with this message however, is despite their rhetoric, neither Burnham or Cooper, or rank outsider Liz Kendall, in our view, has shown any evidence that they can command any confidence outside of the Labour Party; is capable of leading an effective opposition to the Tories, as evidenced in the vote on the Welfare Bill this week; or is capable of rallying voters, and leading Labour back to power.

“Contrary to the claims that Corbyn will put most voters off, and prevent the party regaining power at the next General Election, the evidence so far is, he is the only candidate who garners cheers on televised hustings (to non-Labour audiences).

“He is also, the only candidate, in our view, putting forward policies which can possibly win over the six out of 10 young people who didn’t bother to vote at all in 2015, as well as potentially able to win back the many former Labour voters who have deserted Labour to vote for other parties.”