Andy Burnham Wakefield by-election Labor Red Wall Starmer politics big idea


The former Red Wall MP and cabinet minister spoke exclusively to the Daily Mirror as he stepped onto the campaign trail in Wakefield. The city is more than 50 miles from its authority in Greater Manchester.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham sits outside Labour's headquarters in Wakefield
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham sits outside Labour’s headquarters in Wakefield

A victory in the Wakefield Labor by-election will mark a “very big step” towards retaking the Red Wall, said Andy Burnham.

Wakefield is set to go to the polls on June 23 after former Tory incumbent Imran Ahmad Khan was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager.

The constituency was part of Labor’s Red Wall until 2019 when the seat crumbled to the Conservatives for the first time in 90 years.

The Mayor of Manchester, who was MP for Leigh’s Red Wall seat for 15 years, saw voters turn away from the party because it was becoming “too London-centric”.

He suggests the party has recognized this problem, prompting Labor leader Keir Starmer to make himself more visible in northern England.

But the party needs a big vision for Brits to stand behind and it needs to be implemented now, the Labor heavyweight believes.

He spoke exclusively to the Daily Mirror on his first day of campaigning in Wakefield, more than 50 miles from his office in Greater Manchester.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham speaking to The Mirror’s Aletha Adu ahead of the Wakefield by-election


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Mr Burnham is still the bookies’ favorite to become the next Labor leader and said Mr Starmer needs to lay out his big vision for the party ahead of the autumn conference season.

“I think we are at the stage in Parliament where that needs to be done now. This is now the next phase.”

“I think Labor should stand in the next election as the party of real egalitarianism.”

His comments may surprise some in the shadow cabinet, as a shadow frontbencher told the Mirror “we already have strong guidelines” before admitting they are not always conveyed effectively.

The Mayor of Manchester stood outside the Labor Party’s Wakefield headquarters, still adorned with Union Jack flags after the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

Mr Starmer has been keen to associate the Labor Party with patriotism this year, delivering speeches and addresses in front of the flag to win back disaffected voters.

For Mr Burnham, delivering real change to people facing a livelihood crisis shows the party in power.

Labor leader Keir Starmer delivers a keynote speech outlining Labour’s vision for 2022


(Getty Images)

“You have Labor mayors across the north making real change for the people.

“That is the difference between what traditionally comes out of Westminster and what Labor does in power.

“This is an important by-election for the north of England as it will signal how people are feeling here. They were let down after a series of repeated leveling promises.

“This is a real opportunity for the people of Wakefield to speak up for the North and say you can’t come here and promise things and take us for jugs. I hope the Wakefield people send a big message back to Boris and say we are not fooled.”



Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Mr Burnham, a rising star who became a key figure in the New Labor era, has become known as the ‘King of the North’ for developing flagship projects such as his ambitious plans to integrate the city’s fragmented transport networks.

He’s one step closer to ensuring that bus tickets in Greater Manchester cost no more than £2 a journey.

Mr Burnham has no doubt the country is ready for Mr Starmer’s leadership.

“This government must not believe that it can continue as it is. Sometimes it’s a clown show.”

The Labor Party would bring a “serious show of leadership”, which is exactly what this country needs, he says.

“Seriousness is the problem, isn’t it, and Keir brings that seriousness with him. And we have to come back to that.”

“We don’t take anything for granted,” Labor activists insist, as many recall the statistic that Labor has won just one seat in a by-election in the past 25 years.



Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

Next week’s by-election will be a key test for Mr Starmer to see if his leadership can overturn the Tory majority of 3,358 they won when they won the West Yorkshire seat for the first time since 1932.

The Labor leader’s visit to Wakefield on Monday was almost overshadowed by the opening of the Standard’s surveillance inquiry into whether Mr Starmer broke the rules by late registering earnings and gifts.

Polls have given Labor a 20-point lead, which many Labor insiders say is excessive.

Constituency polls by JL Partners for the Sunday Times put Labor on 48 points compared with 28 points for the Tories – a drop of 19 points from their 2019 performance.

Labor insiders told the Mirror internal figures show the party has a much narrower majority.

Candidate Simon Lightwood insists he is not focusing on the numbers.

He told the Mirror: “My full focus is on the doorstep in front of me. Having these conversations with people means so much to me. It is precisely these conversations that have shaped my politics.”

Mr Lightwood has vowed to deliver cheaper bus fares, save the NHS King Street walk-in health center and get more police on the streets to crack down on anti-social behaviour. Andy Burnham Wakefield by-election Labor Red Wall Starmer politics big idea

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