Burnham denies Milliband rift

Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper
Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper
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TWO of the most senior members of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet have angrily denied claims they were in secret negotiations over what to do if the Labour Party leader quits.

Leigh MP Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper - among the leading candidates to take over in the event of a vacancy - were reported by The Times to have struck a “non-aggression pact”.

One figure was quoted as saying: “It’s about presenting a joint offer to make a contest unnecessary.”

The claim came after Mr Miliband was forced publicly to deny reports that several backbenchers had demanded his resignation amid concerns over the Opposition’s prospects of victory at next year’s general election.

Labour’s election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander issued a plea for the party to “pull together”, warning: “Divided parties lose elections.”

But a spokesman for shadow home secretary Ms Cooper said there was “no foundation whatsoever” to the suggestion.

“The spreading of lies like this only damages the Labour Party and should be seen as exactly what it is - complete and utter garbage,” he said.

“Yvette, the shadow cabinet and the party are united behind Ed’s leadership.”

Shadow health secretary Mr Burnham’s spokesman insisted there were “n o discussions of this kind”.

“The party is united behind Ed’s leadership and we’re are confident he will become the next Prime Minister,” he added.

Mr Miliband dismissed as “nonsense” reports that backbenchers were calling for him to fall on his sword, insisting the party was focused “on the country and the things that matter to the country”.

And Mr Alexander told BBC1’s Question Time: “He’s got challenges, but all of us have got challenges in every political party.

“Every one of us in the Labour Party has to reflect the reality that divided parties lose elections and we have got a profound responsibility to the people who want to get away from the mistakes, the errors, the sheer injustice of this coalition government to pull together, to offer credible change in the face of these tough economic times, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.”