Burnham condemns ‘politics of envy’

Andy Burnham says aspiration is for everyone, not just those who shop at John Lewis

Published: Friday 29th May 2015 by Caroline Stephenson

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Andy Burnham is to warn that Labour cannot win the next election while voters believe it gives the workshy an “easy ride”.

In a speech to senior business figures, the frontrunner in the party’s leadership contest will say he wants to be on the side of those who “put in the hours, the sweat and the hard graft” in order to succeed.

Dismissing the “politics of envy”, the shadow health secretary will argue that society’s wealth-creators must be valued as highly as NHS staff.

Mr Burnham will also go further in admitting Labour mismanaged the economy before the credit crunch – saying it had allowed a “significant” deficit on the government books.

The intervention comes as rival Yvette Cooper formally launches her own campaign with a series of engagements and an address in the North East. Another of the candidates, Liz Kendall, is due to speak about her political beliefs in the East Midlands.

Mr Burnham will say that under Ed Miliband Labour developed a “powerful critique” about the effects of globalisation on workers.

But he will add: “The painful truth is this: though we pride ourselves on being the party of the many, we only had answers for too few. Our appeal was too narrow.

“Politicians make a terrible mistake when they try to compartmentalise the voters and speak only to the hope and dreams of some in certain parts of the country.

“Aspiration is not the preserve of those who shop at John Lewis. Aspiration is universal; it is felt by Asda and Aldi shoppers too.”

Sharing a platform with shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, Mr Burnham will insist he wants Labour to “help everyone get on”.

Apparently conceding that Tory jibes about the “party of welfare” have stuck, he will add: “I have never believed in levelling down, denigrating success or the politics of envy.

“Nor have I believed that people should be handed everything on a plate.

“It worries me that, in some people’s eyes, Labour has become associated with giving people who don’t want to help themselves an easy ride. That must change before we can win again.”

Mr Burnham will say Labour did not talk enough about the importance of businesses that create jobs and wealth.

“We didn’t celebrate the spirit of enterprise,” he will say. “Far too rarely over the last few years has Labour spoken up in praise of the everyday heroes of our society. The small businessman or woman; the sole trader; the innovator, the inventor, the entrepreneur. The small businesses that become big businesses.

“The people with the creative spark to think of a new idea and the get-up-and-go to make it work. Who often have to fight against the odds to succeed, but put in the hours, the sweat and the hard graft to do it.

“So I want this message to go out loud and clear today: in a Labour Party I lead, they will be as much our heroes as the nurse or the teacher.”

Mr Burnham will harden his line on Labour’s economic record, and promise to make balancing the government’s books an “immediate priority” if it has not been achieved by the time the party returns to power.

“If we are to win back trust we have to start by admitting that we should not have been running a significant deficit in the years before the crash – and that this would have left us better able to resist its effects when it came,” he will say.

“We can’t go into the next election, as we did into the last, with business and the public unclear on how Labour will balance the books, or when we will do so.”

Published: Friday 29th May 2015 by Caroline Stephenson

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