Labour leadership race hots up as Burnham accuses rivals of smear

Andy Burnham, a contender for the leadership of the Labour Party, has accused supporters of a rival camp of conducting "malicious briefing" in the hope of getting him to throw in the towel. His remarks are the first public sign of mutual antagonism in a leadership contest that has been marked by restrained language up to now.

Mr Burnham said that he "nearly fell out of his chair" when he read a report that he was looking for an early exit to avoid the embarrassment of coming fifth in a field of five.

Mr Burnham's camp have remained tight-lipped about who they blame for the smear but some have been quick to point the finger at supporters of Ed Balls. Both are fighting for the votes of a very similar constituency.

The shadow Health Secretary claimed the rumour was put about because he has begun to pick up support. He said: "It was malicious briefing. I can only conclude that they're worried. It was total rubbish. It's a sign of desperation."

Mr Burnham entered the field as the least well-known of the candidates in a contest that appeared at the beginning to be a family affair between the brothers David and Ed Miliband.

The shadow Education Secretary Ed Balls is now battling it out with Mr Burnham for the remaining votes, except those of the outside left, which are likely to be picked up by Diane Abbott, who is well known but has no government experience.

Though Mr Balls is arguably the most experienced of the candidates, he began with the disadvantage of being very closely associated with Gordon Brown. He has run a highly organised campaign, helped by seasoned campaigners such the former Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson and Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Charlie Whelan.

Mr Burnham now has nominations from 10 constituency Labour parties, from a total of 632, and the number of supporters signing up on his website has doubled in the past week to 1,100.

He has tried to carve out a distinctive identity for himself by emphasising his northern roots. He is the son of a telephone engineer, brought up on Merseyside, and has his campaign headquarters in Manchester.

He has also begun making free use of the word "socialist", which virtually disappeared from the mouths of leading Labour politicians in the 1990s. His latest email to Labour supporters is headed "the 'S' word is back" – which works better as a slogan for winning a leadership campaign within the Labour Party than in a contest between Labour and the Conservatives.

But his definition of socialism is not the one used by the founders of the Labour Party, for whom it implied common ownership of the commanding heights of industry. Mr Burnham advocates "aspirational socialism" in which enterprise is generally left free from state control, but there is more state or collective ownership in health and social care, the finance industry, and football.

Mr Burnham believes that England's dismal performance in World Cup contests would improve if the clubs were owned by their supporters rather than big business, because they would then become more interested in training new talent rather than buying in foreign players. When he was a special adviser in the Department for Culture, Media and Sports more than 10 years ago, Mr Burnham helped set up Supporters Direct, which seeks to make the clubs more democratic. Fan power would be a modern form of socialism.

In a speech to the Local Government Association last night, Mr Burnham called for local councils to be given greater powers to make compulsory purchases of empty properties or homes belonging to absentee landlords which are threatened with dereliction.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week