A couple of people who are still undecided have asked me to explain why I’m backing Andy Burnham.
This is only a briefly thought through post because I’m stupidly busy (no time to debate either) and as Churchill said I haven’t time to write a short speech so I’ll write a long one. Hang in there.
Also forgive the grammar and spelling. When I’m feeling passionate I write with a Welsh accent!
Andy Burnham has travelled a similar journey to me. He’s come from old industrial communities, fought through the poverty of aspiration which exists in such places (the most malignant part of the class system) and worked hard to achieve success in his chosen field. I think he best represents a vast and important tranche of Labour voters. Many of whom didn’t switch support but are just staying home on election day. These are people who live or lived working class lives struggled to or have seen families struggle to make ends meet but aspire to more than they were “born” to. Some feel Labour just got a bit too metropolitan a bit to full of itself to represent them properly.
I’ve met Andy twice in small group meetings and saw him speak at the husting (both in Bristol and on TV) and I think he’s a very good public speaker. Whilst he doesn’t have the brilliant boxing style of debate that Ed Balls has or the capacity to raise the hairs with a passionate pitch to the left that Dianne Abbot possesses, he sounds like a Labour leader should. He is self deprecating, engaging and intelligent without seeming academic or too polished.
In short I think he would do brilliantly in a debate against Cameron and Clegg. We have to realise this is now an essential skill. There will always be TV debates from now on. We need someone who can do it just as well but offer something different.
I also understand from people close to him in his constituency that he has always got stuck in with his campaigning from the grass roots up and I think that shows.
It also explains why he doesn’t have a vast army of young London based careerists behind him tweeting and RTing his every move. He realises that the strength of our party, the best future MPs, the most valuable contributors are not young upwardly mobile “politics as a career” Westminster bag carriers or policy advisors. The strength is in the mad brilliant sods who give up their time, money and warm beds to trudge around housing estates leafletting until our socks are soaking and bits that should not shiver are shivering.
In short I believe he will pass Labour party power out to where it belongs- our oft neglected members in the rest of Britain.
Andy Burnham was never the front runner and fortunately this has forced him to be more frank than others. I think the “manifesto” document he put out entitled aspirational socialism is the most thorough description on principle of any of the candidates. Some have criticised the idea as marketing but I don’t think it is.
I think it speaks to people like my family back home who think socialism in one form or another is the way to best cure society’s ills and protect them. People who think that we should break down existing power hierarchies of wealth and privilege but have a working class pragmatism that small steady victories are better than none or one big one and years of Tory roll backs. It also speaks to people like me and some of our parents generation. My generation is not content being born and dying in the same class. Some might be more consumerist, some might be less communitarian but crucially we’re also much less deferential to our “betters”. As we slowly occupy more positions of power and influence we can break down the old class systems. That said we do want a better life for ourselves and out children but not at the cost of other people and their children. We recognise that others still suffer and want to make it better. I think recognising the growth of working class aspiration is something Blair and Brown seized on and was essential to past success.
For me Burnham’s master stroke was something I was complaining no candidate in the Bristol hustings was talking about: allying both social housing AND getting on the property ladder for first time young home buyers. Andy then got up to speak and spoke about just that.
Which either means Andy’s reading my tweets… or more likely he’s the right candidate for me.
I think allying the working class who are in the most need and the middle class who are the most politically active and also most likely to change votes is sound and smart politics. Marrying the need for more council housing with the genuine annoyance and frustration that many young professionals (me included) have with difficulties of getting onto the property ladder is political genius.
Andy found a way of “universalising” a seemingly non universal issue. This is important. Just look at the comparative safety in the recession of the NHS (which the middle classes use) vs the shabby treatment of Legal Aid (which the middle classes don’t use.)
As someone who spent my GSCE and A- Level years as a part time carer for my grandmother I also really liked his national care service idea.
So Andy isn’t the front runner or the favoured number 2. He doesn’t have so many CLPs backing him but he has a lot of ordinary Bristolians backing him. He doesn’t have big endorsements from the Unions but the conversations I’ve seen him having with Trade Unionists has been moving. He’s not part of some media constructed side show but has the capacity to play that media game shrewdly.
So if you haven’t yet decided who to vote for. Make sure you give Andy Burnham your number 1 vote. He’s straightforward, articulate and you know what he stands for.