New Labour leadership was elitist, says Burnham

Andy Burnham attacked New Labour's "elitist" style of leadership yesterday as he attempted to win last-minute support and keep alive his bid to become the party's next leader.

During the first major hustings event for the candidates vying to succeed Gordon Brown, Mr Burnham went further than before in distancing himself from the "top-down" approach of Tony Blair and Mr Brown.

In a symbolic break with the New Labour years, both Mr Burnham and Ed Miliband suggested they would not have Lord Mandelson in their shadow cabinets. Mr Burnham said the power wielded by the peer "created the impression that the elite was running the country".

The former health secretary has yet to reach the 33 nominations from MPs needed to earn a place on the ballot paper. He has until tomorrow to find enough backers.

Speaking at the hustings hosted by the GMB union, he tried to persuade those who were undecided by promising to create a "Labour Party that involves everyone".

Leading candidates were also confronted with criticisms that they had little experience outside Westminster and were too similar to each other to offer a real choice. Mr Burnham, Ed Balls and David and Ed Miliband are all former special advisers with degrees from Oxford. John McDonnell, one of two left-wing figures in the race, earned loud applause from union members but scorn from the Tories after saying that he would like to go back in time to "assassinate" Margaret Thatcher. He later clarified that his comments were meant as a joke.

He had made the remark after being asked what single act would have best improved life in 1980s Britain. His reply was: "I was on the GLC that Mrs Thatcher abolished. I worked for the National Union of Mineworkers and we had the NUM strike. I think I'd assassinate Thatcher."

Mr Burnham signalled the end of Lord Mandelson's place at the heart of Labour should he win the leadership. "Peter did some great things," he said. "But we created the impression that the elite was running the country. We must have a Labour Party that involves everyone."

Ed Miliband, who is aiming to pick up many votes from union members with a pitch to the left of his brother, also said there would be no place for Lord Mandelson in his shadow Cabinet. While he said the peer had fought "like a tiger" to keep Labour in office, he added that members of his shadow team should be elected. "I think all of us believe in dignity in retirement," he said.

It was left to David Miliband to defend New Labour's achievements, telling the packed hall the party had to pick someone who was ready to be Prime Minister. "There are plenty of people who want to trash our record. We should not fall for the Tory claptrap that we left Britain broke and broken," he said.

Ed Balls was the only candidate who did not attend the event as he was due to appear in the Commons in his role as the shadow Education Secretary. Mr Balls, who has already earned sufficient nominations to appear on the leadership ballot paper, will address the GMB union conference today.

Diane Abbott, the only woman in the race, is struggling to raise enough support before Wednesday's deadline. She said she hoped her candidacy would make it easier for outsiders to run in the future. "My idea has always been 'go for it' and even if you don't get there, you will have made it easier for other people like you to come afterwards," she said.

Hustings performance

David Miliband (63 nominations)

Told a union audience he refused to back nationalisation, showing he is not prepared to abandon New Labour's past. Performance rating: 3/5



Ed Miliband (49 nominations)

Admitted Labour had been slow to come up with an industrial policy and continued to pitch to the left of his brother. Performance rating: 3/5



Ed Balls (33 nominations)

Not at the hustings and has upset some by talking tough on immigration. Performance rating: N/A



Andy Burnham (23 nominations)

Left an impression by promising to change "elitist" party structure and freeze out Lord Mandelson. Performance rating: 4/5



John McDonnell (10 nominations)

Will be remembered for his quip about assassinating Margaret Thatcher, but the comment will not help his credibility. Performance rating: 1/5



Diane Abbott (8 nominations)

Her "zero privatisation" message went down well, but failed to get 33 nominations. Performance rating: 2/5

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions