Burnham speaks about new phase in his life

Mr Burnham at the Labour conference with leader Jeremy Corbyn
Mr Burnham at the Labour conference with leader Jeremy Corbyn

Andy Burnham has spoken about his life entering a new phase after returning to the Parliamentary back benches in order to mount a challenge to become Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor.

The 46-year-old MP for Leigh said that stepping away from the high ministerial and shadow ministerial roles he has taken in the last 11 years will allow him to spend more time on constituency matters.

Inevitably, in the fevered atmosphere of politics right now, people jumped to all kinds of wild conclusions as to my reasons for leaving

Andy Burnham MP

Speaking in this week’s edition of our sister paper the Leigh Observer, Mr Burnham also moved to scotch any of the other suggestions for his leaving.

These have included allegations that he was following many of his Labour colleagues into quitting the shadow cabinet because they do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn is the right man to lead the Labour Party and has no chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

Mr Burnham remained scrupulously neutral during the recent leadership election and had previously said it was not in his nature to resign and that he had always remained loyal to whomever led his party.

He is now favourite to become the second most powerful person in local government after the Mayor of London.

Should he win next year’s vote he is expected to give up the Leigh seat he has held for the last 15 years to concentrate solely on the mayoral role.

In the meantime he says that leaving the shadow cabinet gives him more time to focus on local issues.

He formally announced his intention to step down as shadow home secretary at last week’s Labour Party conference.

And this week he told the Leigh Observer that this announcement of a return to the back benches marked an “end of an era”.

He added: “Inevitably, in the fevered atmosphere of politics right now, people jumped to all kinds of wild conclusions as to my reasons for leaving.

“But the conspiracy theorists were to be disappointed.

“There is one simple reason why I am stepping back from front-line politics in Westminster: to focus more on the upcoming mayoral election in Greater Manchester, as well, of course, as being the MP for Leigh. Nothing more, nothing less.

“I think I am right in saying that I am the first MP for this area in over a century to hold Ministerial office.

“That, of course, is a source of huge pride to me. I hope you also feel that it has benefited our town by getting Leigh’s voice heard on the national stage.

“And, whatever happens in the future, you can be sure that I will always be fighting Leigh’s corner.

“One of the benefits of stepping back from the front-bench is that it gives me a new freedom to speak out on a whole range of issues affecting Leigh.”

Mr Burnham has previously spoken about why he has gone for the newly created job of Greater Manchester’s first citizen: “Out there, there’s a demand for big changes in the way this country is run.

“This party should be the voice for that change. So that’s why I am ready to leave Westminster. It’s time to make a change, to challenge the status quo from the outside. It’s time to get the voice of the North heard like it has never been heard before.”

Father-of-three Mr Burnham was elected as MP for Leigh in 2001 after the previous incumbent, Lawrence Cunliffe, stepped down.