Andy Burnham speaks to Prospect's Tom Clark at Labour party conference.by Stephanie Boland / September 24, 2017 / Leave a comment
“There’s been a bit of chat about you not having a speech this time. If you had had one… what might you have said?
The room is boiling, and packed to the rafters. Women wearing Usdaw t-shirts fan themselves with pamphlets. Around the back of the room, delegates who have been forced to stand at least find themselves closest to the wine and nibbles. Freshly (temporarily?) erected, the space has the smell of fresh paint, and Prospect staff watch nervously as several men in dark blazers hazard leaning against the walls. This would be an easy audience to frustrate.
But when Andy Burnham starts speaking to Prospect editor Tom Clark about devolution—the North is, perhaps predictably, what he would have spoken to conference about—you can tell immediately that the room is behind him.
“Society is changing very quickly, and politics at the national level is struggling to keep up … having been sixteen years in parliament, having done some of the things I’ve done—most notably Hillsborough—I’ve seen a place where the London view dominates.”
“I think it partially explains the referendum result. There’s a sense that some places in the country matter more than others.”
It’s a familiar theme for Burnham, and one that he presents well. He was, he says, brought up in a fairly normal household, with parents who were Labour—“never activists or councillors, but always Labour”—and had a strong influence on him. He was also brought up a Catholic. Was this, Clark asks, a part of his identity—and did it ever cause conflict, or act as an obstacle in Parliament?
“I was often in conflict with the Church when I was an MP. And to be honest, I’m not, if you like, a believer. What I can’t escape from is the upbringing and the DNA.”
“The three organisations that shaped me were the Labour party, Everton football club and the Catholic church.”
It is in this sense, he says, that he is a “Catholic.” He cites the influence of Catholic social teaching—its passive impact on his upbringing is, he, suggests, “the same as the political views I have”—before adding: “I don’t understand how anyone can be Christian and not be on the left of politics.”
“I know that might be controversial.”
Burnham’s leadership runs
Identity has been a…