ANDY Burnham is favourite to take over as the new Labour Leader.
The Leigh MP was already the bookies choice before Ed Miliband’s resignation at lunchtime following Labour’s disastrous performance nationally in the General Election.
I’m so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats and all the candidates who were defeatedEd Miliband
But the odds had shortened considerably by the time Miliband fell on his sword minutes after Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage’s equally anticipated announcements.
The former health secretary, who has been MP since the retirement of Lawrence Cunliffe in 2001, is seen within Labour as one of the few successes in a stuttering party performance because of the success of his campaigning about the future of the national health service.
The 45-year-old, who achieved over 54 per cent of the vote in his constituency, is also popular within the party across both left and right factions.
He is widely seen as a potentially unifying figure.
Indeed just hours after winning his Leigh seat for the fourth consecutive time, Mr Burnham was at the local election count at Robin Park, supporting local Labour candidates.
When asked about the leadership he remained tight-lipped, declining to comment.
His key challengers for the post will be Yvette Cooper, whose husband Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was one of the highest profile victims of the election for Labour; Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Ummuna and Tristram Hunt, Shadow Education Secretary (and once part of the Parliamentary team for ex-Makerfield MP Sir Ian McCartney).
Makerfield’s MP Yvonne Fovargue MP said that she was pleased that Labour had increased its share of the vote and majorities in Leigh, Makerfield and Wigan, but she made no attempt to hide her pain over the party’s showing nationwide.
Ms Fovargue polled more than 23,200 votes on a 60.48 per cent turnout, up 1.28 per cent on the last General Election when she stood in place of the retiring Sir Ian McCartney.
She said: “The results across the country are deeply disappointing and there is no doubt that it was a very bad night for Labour.”
“I feel incredibly sad for so many of my colleagues who will not be returning to Parliament.
“Labour must now look to the future by developing policies that reach out to the millions of people who chose to vote for other parties across the UK.”
Announcing that he was stepping down, Ed Miliband said that he passionately believed that Britain needed a Labour Government ”but the public voted otherwise.”
He said: “I take absolute and total responsibility for the result and our defeat at this election.
“I’m so sorry for all of those colleagues who lost their seats and all the candidates who were defeated.
“It is time for someone else to take forward the leadership of this party. The party needs to have an honest and open debate about the way forward without restraints.
“The fight goes on and whoever is our new leader I know Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again.”