Labour has been ‘too cautious’ under Starmer, Andy Burnham warns

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Monday 10 May 2021 14:18
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Andy Burnham attacks government in Manchester mayor re-election speech

Labour has been "too cautious" under Sir Keir Starmer and has been penalised for it at the ballot box, one of the party’s victors in last week’s elections has suggested. 

Andy Burnham, the re-elected mayor of Greater Manchester, said Labour should have set out more clearly how much it believes nurses and care workers should be paid.

He also accused his party of failing to back him sufficiently last autumn when he battled plans by Boris Johnson’s government to pay people in his area on furlough 67 per cent of their wages.

Mr Burnham’s vocal in his condemnation of the proposals, less than the 80 per cent that had been paid during a nationwide scheme earlier in the year, made him a hero among many Labour activists.

He was re-elected at the weekend, taking 69 per cent of the vote. The size of his victory almost immediately led to suggestions Mr Burnham could be a future leader of this party.

He played down that idea, telling the BBC’s World At One programme he intended to serve a full second term. Under Labour rules, the party’s leader must be an MP.

But Mr Burnham did have a message for the current leadership.

“The problem we have had – there is a caution that stops people putting forward clear policies,” he said. “On nurses pay I thought we should have been clearer about exactly what we thought was the right level of nurses pay coming out the pandemic.”  

Equally, on pay rates for those in social care, he said: “That’s a Labour issue where we should speak without caution, being really clear that it is just wrong for anyone that looks after people’s relatives gets paid less than a real living wage.”

On his furlough row with the government, he added: “They were too cautious then in their response to that issue and they did not back me as strongly as they should have done.”

Earlier Sir Keir Starmer told his shadow cabinet that he took full responsibility for Labour’s defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.

The Labour leader met his top team for the first time since the party lost the so-called ‘red wall’ seat to the Tories last week.

In the wake of that defeat and results in local elections across England, Sir Keir held a strained reshuffle in which he sacked his shadow chancellor and chief whip but was forced to give his demoted deputy so many new roles she now has a 24 word long job title.

Sources said Sir Keir told them there was no escaping the scale of the defeats which said "something profound about the size of the journey we have to go".

He was said to have told the meeting: "To be clear, I take responsibility. Nobody else. I lead the Labour Party and it is entirely on me."

Sir Keir said that deputy leader Angela Rayner had "a big, new role, taking the fight to the Tories".

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