Labour leadership race: I'm backing Andy Burnham to unite the party and lead us forward to the next election

He's talking from the heart about the ideas we need to face the future with confidence

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The Independent Online

Let's be honest; this is a difficult time for the Labour Party.

We are still trying to recover from a bruising general election in which many voters did not trust us on the economy. And the country is now learning just what it means to be facing a majority Tory Government again.

But it’s also a chance to move forward and that’s why this leadership election really matters. We should respect all of the candidates and our members for the decision they will soon make. But we also have to recognise that choosing Labour's next leader is a big responsibility with big implications for our party and the country. 

I joined the Labour Party 44 years ago. It has always been a broad church with lots of different views. But we must not let this contest become a false argument between holding on to our values and gaining power. Labour wins when we do both.

I am backing Andy Burnham because he has what it takes to unite the party and lead us forward to the election in 2020.

I have worked alongside Andy for many years. I have seen close up his courage on Hillsborough and his passion in defence of our NHS. He has experience and ideas. He wants to reconnect with the voters we have lost. He understands that to be Labour is to be passionate about changing things for the better. But most of all he is talking from the heart about the big ideas we need in order to face the future with confidence.

Take his plan for whole person care. Ageing and getting ill are both universal human experiences. And yet we all wonder why we have different disjointed systems to meet our physical, social and mental health needs when we are the same person who may break a leg today, be depressed tomorrow or need social care the day after. Andy's vision of a national care service is for me as radical and important an idea as the founding of the NHS was nearly 70 years ago.

Or take the question of parity between academic and vocational education. Andy argues that young people who want a technical education should be given help to travel across the country, and study elsewhere like university students are able to, so they can get access to the best courses.

Both of these ideas speak to our values and demonstrate how politics - Labour politics - can bring about fundamental change for the benefit of all. 

It is exactly this combination of vision, determination and a great ability to communicate that Andy offers. It’s why I am supporting him and I hope you will think about doing so too.

Hilary Benn is the shadow Foreign Secretary