Coffee House

Ed Miliband is caught in Andy Burnham’s crossfire

10 August 2013

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, has given an interview to the Guardian which has excited the Tories. Tory chairman Grant Shapps has said:

‘This shows that even senior members of Labour’s top team think Ed Miliband doesn’t have what it takes to stand up for hardworking people.’

It’s a familiar refrain; but for once the spin rings fairly true. Here’s the crucial passage from Decca Aitkenhead’s piece:

‘…when I ask if he’s worried by how long Labour is taking to come out with a set of flagship policies that explain what they stand for, he agrees. “Definitely. I think there’s definitely a need to shout louder, and speak in a way that captures how people are thinking and feeling. There’s definitely a need to put our cards on the table.”‘


Burnham went on to say that time is short for Labour; the party has until next spring, he reckons, to provide a convincing economic alternative to the coalition.

Aitkenhead felt compelled to ask if Burnham is ‘on manoeuvres’. Burnham insisted that he has ‘nothing but the utmost respect’ (ho ho) for Ed Miliband, and added that most of his criticisms were aimed at modern politics not personalities. Even so, Ed Miliband suffers because Burnham’s interview is the first significant media appearance by a shadow cabinet member this summer. And Burnham deliberately roved beyond his brief. His discussion of the economy damns Miliband and Ed Balls, the latter being a beast with which Burnham has wrestled on a few occasions this parliament – first while shadowing education and now shadowing health.

Burnham may sound like a Cassius in search of his Brutus; but there is another side to these remarks. It is rumoured that Burnham is to be reshuffled. He has been damaged by the Mid Staffs scandal and the Tories are happy with him in post; so Miliband might be wise to move him. Burnham, I think, realises this because some of his comments were very defensive. He said, ‘I’m saying to Ed [Miliband], I will give you an NHS policy that is “one nation” to its core.’ Elsewhere he said that social care, an issue he dabbled with as Health Secretary under Gordon Brown, will be central to the next election. The message is, ‘You need me, Ed!’

So then, Andy Burnham. Stalking horse? Nervous servant? Or both?

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • HookesLaw

    Surely as a stalking horse he is a Brutus looking for a Crassus.
    If Labour could not find a Brutus for Gordon Brown then they will not find one for Ed M.

    Go and look on UK Polling Report and you will see it has morphed into a labour activist self help group who long for Burnahm to take over. A labour mindset is difficult to decode.

    I suppose it make a change form all the grand wizard cheeleaders we see on here.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ‘Bed Clearer’ Burnham

  • Itsybitsy Mcdo

    is he sure he is Grant Shapps today I thought is was Micheal green at the weekend and Sebastion Fox on days without Y, have to admit everyday here he’s just know as the tosspot

  • Abhay

    This odious Blairite vestige wants to drive ‘one nation’ NHS policy. Someone should be discussing his retirement plans with him.

  • Barbara

    The real truth is the damage to the NHS was done via Blairs intention and blasting it with money but no control how it was spent. Having market forces in health is wrong, I know I’ve worked and trained in it, it does work if left to those who know what it needs. However, we now see GP’s edging towards charging patients to been seen in surgeries, how do they think people will pay for this? We are already paying via taxes. They have been rewarded well from the Labour party, contracts that are so lucrative doctors won’t want to give them up but their greed sees no bounds as they suggest we pay more. One thing Labour won’t do is to allow that to happen but will the present Tories allow it? One has to ask. Its the never ending abuse of our systems that is the problem, stopping this abuse should be the main aim of any government. It is not the only problem, waste within the system if rife. Yet still for service and saving lives its still the most effective in he world, for poor people especially. Any political party who attempts to abandon it will fall foul of this country for without it many have nothing else.

    • HookesLaw

      Any non NHS system will cost more as despite all the comments its current admin costs are relatively low.
      The NHS is going through a 20 billion efficiencies savings programme and when this one is finished i think we can expect another to start.
      There is a limit to how much the nation can spend on health and we have to live within that. There is no other answer.
      But nurses actually showing compassion for their patients, and doing what old fashioned me calls actual ‘nursing’, costs nothing.

      • Barbara

        Well now you are in my territory, I’m a retired nurse and have worked and trained in the NHS. However, times change we all know that, nursing has changed, but not for the better. If I tell you that this March my husband died, nothing could be done or him I accept that, but to be told in one breath your husband is dying probably within 6 weeks, but he as to vacate the NHS bed as they needed the beds, how would you feel? Well I can guess dismayed like me, angry like me, disgusted like me. I refused and reminded the same hospital they had treated, housed and fed an illegal immigrant for 12 mths at the same hospital while my husband had 45 years NI stamps to his name. Yes, we have to cut cost I agree, but we should start with those getting treatment who should pay first. Stop the abuse of he rest of the world who are becoming to believe its for them also. Stop internal waste via managers who are not accountable, but who are overly paid for the job they do. As for nurses they should be trained not in classrooms but on the job like they used to be, you cannot beat it and you never forget, and the lack of nurses would be solved if this practice was reintroduced, you do not need a degree to nurse, you need empathy and good common sense. Enough said.

  • Brigantian

    The tie is interesting even if everything else is predictable. Green is a good colour for Labour: Peasant’s Party, Irish Celtic & Islamic. Precisely the three core groups of Labour voters pervie pinko metro Miliband has gone out of his way to alienate.

  • albertcooper

    The Man Who Would Be King !

    • David Lindsay

      It won’t be him now, though, will it? But who? He must have someone in mind.

      He’s always been underestimated. Without the Cain and Abel/Phil and Grant aspect of the last Labour Leadership Election, he would have been seen as a very major player indeed. He may yet be. Arguably, as of today, he already is.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Is this a ploy to divert attention from his attempts to whitewash the NHS scandals under his watch and his staff doctoring of his Wiki entry?

    It will be a day for rejoicing when this man leaves politics and STFU.

  • starfish

    At what stage will labour replace glib producer-interest -captured ineptitude with competence and vision? The tories arent much better but there are a few exceptions

    • Wessex Man

      Not when they operate as they do now, the talking heads of the Labour, Tory and Liberal/Democrats don’t actally meet many electors and the meetings are stage managed, some times but rarely, they go wrong as in Gillian Duffy and Gordon Brown. Most of the work at elections is done by ordinary membwers ant their central offices.

      I was astonished that a Tory defector had no more idea than me how to fill out the forms to stand as a candidate in the May Elections to start with because everything was done for them by central office other than signing the various forms.

      This explains why people like Burnham come straight from Uni, work for a sitting MP for a while and then stand in a safe seat, take a Cabinet Post and know nothing about electors concerns.

  • Emulous

    This most dangerous of men who singlehandedly condemned the people of Stafford by sweeping legitimate concerns about a Dangerous Hospital has some gall.
    Were he not correct that Miliband and Balls are devoid of policy, ideas and political personality it would be truly laughable.
    As it is if this worm who needs political help is unhappy God help the rest of the Shadow Cabinet Shower.
    Roll on the General Election when we can see the back of Clegg as well.

    • Portendorfer

      Burnham should not only be fired but prosecuted:

      “One of US President Barack Obama’s key health advisers has just published a review in the aftermath of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal. Don Berwick’s review is both thoughtful and reflective but one of his key recommendations – to create criminal sanctions against health staff …..”
      This may say Staff but should first apply to he who was responsible

      • Colonel Mustard

        There are already criminal sanctions against health staff here. Causing death by negligence and corporate manslaughter. I am not aware of NHS staff or the NHS being exempt from prosecution for those offences but would have thought there was prima facie evidence for both in the case of Mid-Stafford, from what has been reported.

        However the current DPP, appointed by New Labour, appears much more interested in continuing that government’s politicisation of justice on behalf of feminist pressure groups.

        It bemuses me that politicians seem to always want to create new tailor-made laws and offences rather than ensuring those already in existence are adequately enforced. Justice by knee-jerk and buzz words I suppose.

        • Portendorfer

          If I could snap Burnham over my knee by knee jerk I would have done a service.
          I carry an image in my mind of a Scouse Git wearing a shell suit loafing down to Aldi with his partner in slippers and curlers.
          Such is Burnham.

          • Emulous

            I think perhaps we should forget Burnham and Hunt on health. I found this as a perjorative on a Left Wing Site:
            In summary, among other things UKIP would:

            Scrap NHS 111

            Charge those requiring A&E treatment who don’t need treating within two hours

            Allow mutual providers, including GPs, to charge a flat fee to see non-emergency cases

            Ensure people can pay upfront fees off over a period of time when registered with a GP

            Refuse to discount fees for drunk patients.
            If we cannot afford our NHS this seems like a start.

            • Emulous

              And UKIP are coming:

              “UKIP is definitely the way forward in local government as we need new thinking and fresh ideas and I want to be a part of that. As a UKIP councillor, I am better able to represent the people of my ward.”

              Last week, Cllr John Wilson in Hastings defected. The week before, three Tory councillors in Romford walked over to the purple side, and earlier in the month Richmond councillor Scott Naylor switched teams too. This is quite the phenomenon, and the fact that the mainstream media hasn’t bothered to cover this spate of defections, even during ‘silly season’ speaks volumes of the UKIP media ‘blackout’ and/or May saturation for the party to the point where journalist simply cannot be bothered to keep writing about these defections.

              Either way, it’s a great shame that such results are being swept under the carpet, and will only fuel the fires of the UKIP base further, convincing them that there is some grand establishment strategy to do the party down. And as a result, they’ll lock in further, and work harder.

              UKIP sources tell TRENDING CENTRAL that in the past few months alone there have been around 15 defections to the party in the Greater London region, with 16 councillors in total.

              • Holly

                Constantly coming second or third in by elections is great yeah?
                People are just ‘itching’ to elect them to power come the election.

            • HookesLaw

              Health is a classic example of how dire the policies of UKIP are when you look at them.
              In fact UKIP are saying let people pay to queue jump in A&E.
              ‘“We should accept that if a triaging clinician feels we don’t
              need treating within two hours required for standard cases then we be either willing to pay or willing to wait longer so cases most deserving are treated best.’

              A triaging doctor if he is doing his job properly should always be seeing that the most urgent cases get treated.

              This is just part of UKIPs ideas which involve making us pay for health care and tear up the NHS.
              They should come clean and tell the electorate they want to bring in a system similar to say Germany where people have to play top ups to their standard insurances to get decent treatment and where hospitals are in debt and need bailing out and the whole system is 11 billion in debt.

              Will UKIP tell the electorate that in the German health system German workers pay a fixed-rate premium into the insurance scheme; that rate is now set at 14.9% of gross pay. Try selling that to the electorate.

              They also say we should be like Australia.

              ‘ ”We do not have universal healthcare in the country any more unless you go to an emergency room and need surgery. Even then, there are long waits,” Ms Bennett says.
              She says the average Australian was spending $1000 on
              out-of-pocket medical expenses each year – a figure that puts Australia at the wrong end of the global list.’

  • Dogsnob

    Just heard radio report quoting Mr Burnham as expressing concerns that Labour need to try capture the ‘undecided voter’, and to do this, the Party has to find out exactly how people are feeling.

    I wish he’d knock on my door.

    • The Wiganer

      None of the main parties are bothered if you vote for them. Their objective is to make sure you don’t vote for anyone else, so that their blind faithful rump vote can get them over the line.
      ‘we are sh*t but the other lot are worse’ appears to be the unwritten election slogan.

      • Dogsnob

        Right enough, that’s a fair description of the moribund state of British party politics these days.
        But Labour have carved out a very special place for themselves, with their disgusting abandonment of their own people – the details of their fetid scheme made public by Andrew Neather, boasted of by Mengelson and treated with blithe disregard by the guvnor of this particular publication.
        Labour’s core support is now the inner-city…ahem ‘multicultural’ cauldron of their making.
        Nothing whatever to do with me and my like.

        • Emulous

          Not all are moribund.

          I will reproduce a sliver of my long post above.

          “UKIP sources tell TRENDING CENTRAL that in the past few months alone there have been around 15 defections to the party in the Greater London region, with 16 councillors in total.”

          • Dogsnob

            I stand corrected. My aim was at the big three ‘mainstream’ parties.
            I very much hope that UKIP continues to gain membership and following. I hope also, that it can resist the inevitable attacks it will have to face.

            • Drabble

              As Labour decline so does UKIP. The population now scent a True Tory Victory.

              • Dogsnob

                ‘The population’? You’re sure about that are you, because there seems to be little evidence to suggest that the Tories are going to do anything at all about the big issues? How long have they been in now?

    • Shazza

      And mine –

  • Holly

    So Burnham thinks Labour should speak in a way that ‘captures how people are thinking or feeling’, with no acknowledgement of why people are ‘thinking’/’feeling’ the way they do, or what caused the current government to have to take such drastic action on state spending, resulting in the majority feeling the pinch because Labour allowed welfare benefits available to too many people.
    Labour needs to stop shouting, and grow up…A LOT!

    A complete disinfecting of the Labour front bench is the only thing that will make any difference to us out here, and even then, those who are responsible for the mess will still be ‘shouting’ from the backbenches.
    Until Labour voters have the guts to get rid of the likes of Burnham, Balls & Co at the ballot box Labour will continue to be blamed for the mess, and the current government are having to try and fix it.
    Remembering that no part of government was left undamaged by a decade of Labour’s inept governance, the public know one term is nowhere near enough, and handcuffed to hand-wringing Liberal Democrats will only slow down complete recovery.

    I could be wrong though.

    • Paddy

      They can disinfect as much as they want Holly. It won’t make them electable.

      The only Labour politician I have any time for is Kate Hooey

      • Nat

        and Frank Field?

Can't find your Web ID? Click here