LABOUR leadership contender Andy Burnham has hit out strongly at claims of sexism following a comment on a radio debate.
The Leigh MP was asked whether the party should have a woman in charge during a panel event questioning the leadership hopefuls and was reported as saying: “When the time is right”.
However, Mr Burnham says his words were taken out of context and blasted criticism which had suggested he thought a woman should not become the Labour leader.
He said: “I would encourage people to look at the full quote, because I said: ‘When the right candidate comes forward. It could be now, it could be in the future. Who knows?’ It was a spur-of-the-moment comment.
“Anybody who knows me knows what kind of person I am and I reject the accusations which have been made entirely.
“I can’t be endorsing other candidates when I’m running to be leader myself.”
Mr Burnham was criticised in several papers over the remarks by MPs backing fellow leadership candidate Yvette Cooper and women and equalities select committee chair Maria Miller.
Reports said his comment in Stevenage also drew gasps from the studio audience at the hustings.
However, he accused certain national newspapers of refusing to report on him even-handedly and said he felt he was in a strong position to win the leadership.
He said: “I’m greatly encouraged by polls which suggests I can win for Labour in 2020 and I believe out of all the candidates I’m the only one who can beat Jeremy Corbyn and unite Labour.
“I won’t be distracted by the efforts of certain national newspapers to throw me off course. It’s all to play for and I feel I’m getting more support as the race comes towards its end.”
A spokesman for Mr Burnham’s campaign said: “There’s only one thing that matters and that is which candidate has the right policies to beat the Tories.”?