Burnham: It’s time for the north to rise again

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham’s bid to become the first elected mayor of Greater Manchester has begun as he vows to change the region for the better.

As revealed by Wigan Today and the Leigh Observer earlier this week, the Leigh MP will deliver a speech later today (Thursday) where he will confirm his intention to be Labour’s candidate in next year’s election.

Greater Manchester will be a place where people are supported to succeed, where success is shared and where no-one is left behind

Andy Burnham

He will tell party members he wants Greater Manchester to be a “beacon of social justice” in a speech in Salford.

The Shadow Home secretary would have to leave the shadow cabinet if he is elected next year.

He will first have to be voted as Labour’s candidate, though, with opposition including interim mayor Tony Lloyd.

Announcing his candidacy, Mr Burnham will deliver the following speech:

“Centuries of our Westminster system have made England a very unequal country. Put bluntly, Westminster has failed the North. It has left us with an uneven share of resources, power and life chances. The London perspective on life dominates the political debate and does not do justice to the challenges that people here face.

“In my 15 years in Parliament, I have consistently challenged that. But now I want to go a step further. I am ready to leave Westminster and devote myself to this new task of rebalancing our country from South to North. This is an unprecedented moment when we have a chance to do just that. I am not prepared to let it pass. I want Labour to grab it, to put our stamp on it and change politics in our country for the better.

“The Mayor of Greater Manchester is a Cabinet-level job that requires Cabinet-level experience. If done right, it can make a real difference. I believe I have got what it takes to make a success of it. But I’ve also got a passion for this place and its people and, most importantly, a vision for what it can be in the future.

“Greater Manchester can be even greater than it is today. A major European economic and creative centre - unashamedly entrepreneurial and endlessly innovative - but at the same time, and here’s the crucial part, a beacon of social justice in this country and to Europe and the World.

“That is a vision which I think captures the essence of Manchester. It is full of people who want to get on but who also want to give back. This is a vision that would make us unique and set us apart. It is one people could buy into. Yes, let’s help people to succeed. But let’s never forget our roots and those coming after us.

“That’s the spirit of Manchester that I will seek to capture as Mayor. Greater Manchester will be a place where people are supported to succeed, where success is shared and where no-one is left behind. With people and values like ours, there should be nothing we can’t achieve.

“So, how do we go about the job of making Greater Manchester a beacon of social justice? It’s starts with life chances. For decades, Westminster had looked down on technical education and neglected it. That has betrayed millions of young people here and across the North.

“If we want a more equal society, it starts with giving every young person in Greater Manchester hope that there is a decent opportunity waiting for them at the end of school.

“So, as Mayor, I will ask the birthplace of the industrial revolution to lead a revolution in technical education. I will set an ambition of a quality apprenticeship for every young person who gets the grades and ask all businesses and public bodies to buy into it. But I also want young people here to think of starting their own business as a natural thing to do. So I will ask Manchester’s most successful entrepreneurs to devise a new support scheme for school and college leavers to set up their own company.

“So that’s my ambition for the young people of Greater Manchester: university, apprenticeship or entrepreneur. If you get the grades, we will support you into the route of your choice. It is ambitions like that that will make Greater Manchester a beacon of hope and social justice.

“We can also set ourselves apart on our approach to housing. Our goal should be an affordable home for everyone - to rent or to own - and an end to the homelessness that blights our city region. I would want to use the Mayor’s housing fund to buy out the absent private landlords who have barely ever been to Greater Manchester and don’t care about the place. Let’s return these properties to the public housing stock. I would also set up a Greater Manchester Rent-to-Own scheme to build the new homes we need and get our young people on the housing ladder.

“We all know there is no social mobility without modern public transport. Patch and mend and an extra lane on the M62 is not good enough. We have put up with outdated, overcrowded rail services for too long. So I will make it my business to ensure the Government commits to major investment in brand new high-speed East-West rail across the North. Let me be clear: this is the top priority for the country, not Crossrail 2. If George Osborne is serious about a Northern Powerhouse, he must put his money where his mouth is.

“But there is one way that Greater Manchester can stand out as a beacon of social justice perhaps more than any other - and that is how we care for older or vulnerable people. As Mayor, I will make it my mission to build here the country’s first fully-integrated National Health and Care Service - working to bring social care into the public sector and the NHS; taking Bevan’s great vision from the last century and updating it for this.

“I am clear about why I want to do this job. But I am also clear that I am not going to achieve any of this alone. I want to bring the Greater Manchester Labour family together and work with our outstanding Labour leaders to deliver this vision. I want to push power down to our councillors and their own communities, so that they are empowered to challenge the inequalities that scar our own City-region as well as the country as a whole.

“So I can confirm today that I will be putting my name forward to stand as the first elected Mayor for Greater Manchester. I want to win this contest not by the strength of my organisation but by the strength of my vision for Greater Manchester.

“This is not just a chance to build Greater Manchester. It is also a chance to revitalise Labour in the North. It will be what we make of it. Let’s not make the mistake of Scotland. If Labour fails to take this moment seriously, and field its biggest hitters, then we will leave an opportunity for others. I am not prepared to let that happen. We have a chance to develop our own distinctive brand of Northern Labour. Let’s grab it with both hands.

“Many great political and social movements have started here that have gone on to change the country and the world. So let’s seize the moment. Let’s start another one. One that will change our area, the North and, in time, our country for the better.

“Let Greater Manchester lead the campaign for a more equal England. If we lead the way, we can in time build a Cabinet of the North that will make its voice heard loud and clear and rebalance this country of ours. We can do it because it is what we have been and because it is who we are. It is time for the North to rise again. If anywhere can do it, it’s here in Greater Manchester. We can be a beacon of social justice.”