Could Andy Burnham become Labour leader? Superstar mayor ‘prepared to go back’

Labour is showing an 'identity crisis' says Emily Maitlis

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Labour is currently competing against the Conservatives and 15 other candidates to hold the Batley and Spen constituency. Many party activists and some MPs remain unconvinced about the party’s ability to install candidate Kim Leadbeater in former MP turned West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin’s seat. Criticism has settled on Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, with rumours of a potential leadership challenge should the party lose its third by-election in as many months.

Could Andy Burnham become Labour leader?

Labour spokespeople have insisted Sir Keir does not intend to step down – but that hasn’t stopped pollsters looking to divine public sentiment on potential replacements.

YouGov recently posted results of one such poll it conducted alongside Sky News, suggesting Andy Burnham is a sweeping favourite.

The study found four in ten Labour members would like Sir Keir to forfeit his leadership following another loss today, and 69 percent would like Mr Burnham to replace him.

The Manchester mayor has attained superstar status in the British political landscape over the last year after going toe-to-toe with the Government at the height of the Covid crisis.

He surged to victory during Manchester’s elections with 67.31 percent of the vote in the first round and support from every mayoral ward.

His success in transforming the city’s infrastructure has given some people hope he could do the same with the Labour Party.

Sir Keir’s perceived failures have provided a harsh comparison for critical members, leading to calls for Mr Burnham to take the helm.

These calls have led to questions and ultimately prompted a public response from the man himself.

Speaking to the New Statesman, Mr Burnham signalled he would consider returning to the Parliamentary fray.

He has no intention of dropping his present responsibilities, however.

Speaking to the publication’s political editor Stephen Bush, he said he would consider returning to the Westminster fray.

Mr Burnham said: “I get asked it relentlessly: would I ever go back? So the answer is, I would, but it’s not any time soon.”

His present concern is Manchester and supporting the Parliamentary Labour Party.

He said he wants Sir Keir to “win the next general election”.

And, he added, he is willing to “do whatever I can to help him achieve that.”

Mr Burnham took the conversation to Twitter, where Daily Mail columnist Dan Hodges questioned his future commitments.

The commentator said it was unclear whether Mr Burnham intended to fulfil his second term as mayor.

He asked the mayor point-blank where his intentions fall relative to the role.

Mr Hodges said in a tweet: “Will you serve a full second term as Mayor.”

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Responding, the Manchester mayor met the question with an unequivocal “Yes Dan.”

Local mayor terms in the UK last four years at a time, meaning with this commitment, Mr Burnham won’t make a run at becoming an MP or leader until at least 2025.

Discounting him from the latest poll and focussing solely on Labour’s Parliamentary crop, other favourite replacements for Mr Starmer come from Mr Burnham’s right.

Behind him, with just over half of the 871 polled Labour members’ support, is Yvette Cooper.

The home affairs select committee chair had support from 35 percent of those members.

Like Mr Burnham, Ms Cooper once competed for Labour leadership and recently gained popularity from her ferocious grilling of the Prime Minister and Government officials during committee hearings.

Other potential replacements for Mr Starmer include his deputy, Angela Rayner, and more previous leadership contenders.

The results for Labour leader preference came as follows:

  • Lisa Nandy (shadow foreign secretary): 13 percent
  • Angela Rayner (deputy leader): 12 percent
  • Rebecca Long-Bailey: 11 percent
  • Richard Burgon: Six percent

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