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
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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor