WHO IS ANDY BURNHAM?

WHO IS ANDY BURNHAM?

New Shadow Education Secretary and Labour Election Co-ordinator

Comment

Andy Burnham, the MP for Leigh in Greater Manchester , was a Labour leadership contender coming fourth in the contest, behind the Milband brothers  and Ed Balls, although the  gap between Balls and Burnham was narrow.

Though seemingly   popular with the public  (a straw poll by Newsnight  suggested he impressed a selected audience  much more than the  other candidates)  he was  obviously  less so with the Unions, who held the whip hand in this contest.

. He is a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury-under Alastair Darling-  and  Culture Secretary .

A party member  since he was 14, he was “radicalised”  apparently by the miner’s strike, although is viewed  now as centre-right within the party.

Before entering the Commons, he had been special adviser to Chris Smith, when he was secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport. Burnham had  also been an administrator for the Football Task Force and a researcher at the NHS Confederation. His first political position was as a researcher to Tessa Jowell MP from 1994 to 1997.

Mr Burnham, a lifelong keen  Everton fan (used therefore to handling disappointments) and the son of a telephone engineer,  he was elected in 2001 as the MP for the safe Labour seat of Leigh in Greater Manchester.

In his maiden speech to the House of Commons, he said: “I aim to give the House an authentic voice from my home area in years to come.”  After  time as a backbencher he served on the Health Select Committee for two years before becoming Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2003. A year later he moved to be PPS to the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly which gave him some insight into education policy. The PPS acts as a sounding board, adviser to the Minister  and link to backbenchers.

He got his first ministerial post in 2005, returning to the Home Office, now under new management, as Parliamentary Under Secretary. At the Home Office he was given responsibility for the poisoned chalice of the identity cards scheme. Always expensive it was not popular either with the public or backbenchers, and the justifications for the scheme changed daily.

A year later he may have been grateful to escape, even to another troubled Department, especially as it involved a major promotion to number two at the Department of Health, responsible for service delivery and quality. With a strong reputation for efficiency, he drove through important reforms such at the eighteen-week waiting target, somewhat eclipsing his  then boss Patricia Hewitt. But he was booed  and heckled  at a Health  Conference by health workers dissatisfied with their pay rise.

He was considered to have made a seamless transition from supporting Tony  Blair to backing Gordon  Brown, not an easy task, but this strength probably turned out to be a weakness in the leadership campaign, as in the event  he had no hard core of support to build his campaign on.Nor for that matter had Ed Balls, who managed to punch below his weight.

During the expenses scandal it emerged that Burnham had been involved in an eight-month battle with the Commons fees office over a £16,500 claim towards the costs of the purchase and renovation of a London flat. The authorities refused the payment three times before eventually agreeing to pay.

He has no  obvious record on education except for his brief  period as PPS to Ruth Kelly when she was Education Secretary  but he is  thought to be generally sympathetic to Blairite reforms and he voted for instance  for tuition fees as did Alan Johnson of course, now shadow Chancellor. Both their positions have  since changed leaning towards a graduate tax now.

While standing in the Labour leadership contest, Burnham told Children and Young People Now he was keen to break down the barriers faced by too many young people and provide them with the chances in life that others take for granted. He said this meant investing heavily in early years education, challenging selection and elitism in schools and supporting young people with disabilities as well as young carers. “To give young people the highest possible expectations and aspirations, we need bold action at every stage of their lives,” he said. “For a strong future, we must invest in young people, giving them the practical and social skills necessary to succeed,” he said. In his leadership manifesto  meanwhile, he proposed ending long-term unpaid internships for young people lasting more than three months.He has recently attacked Gove on the Pupil Premium. Though agreeing that the Premium  may  in principle  be  a good idea,  he criticises the way funding is being managed which means ,he claims, that in effect  many schools and disadvantaged pupils will  lose out. He also in the hustings showed support for a graduate tax, which looks to be Labour party policy now  and  the ideal of a system of education based on comprehensive schools. In a recent Guardian interview he said that a Labour Government would end Free Schools. He wants  state schools to be within a Local Authority accountability framework , and believes that the new education landscape with Academies and Free schools is fragmented and will not help the most disadvantaged pupils.

Burnham and James Purnell – his predecessor as culture secretary – used to be flatmates and are good friends. Purnell, though  became disillusioned with the party led by  Gordon Brown and opted out of mainstream politics.

Summary

Secretary of State, Department of Health (10 Jun 2009 to 11 May 2010)

Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport (25 Jan 2008 to 10 Jun 2009)

Chief Secretary, HM Treasury (28 Jun 2007 to 25 Jan 2008)

Minister of State (Delivery and Quality), Department of Health (23 May 2006 to 28 Jun 2007)

Minister of State, Department of Health (8 May 2006 to 23 May 2006)

Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office (11 May 2005 to 8 May 2006)

PPS (Rt Hon David Blunkett, Secretary of State), Home Office (10 Apr 2005 to 11 Apr 2005)

PPS to Ruth Kelly Education Secretary 2004/5

PPS (Rt Hon David Blunkett, Secretary of State), Home Office (to 16 Dec 2004)

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