Ahead of the upcoming Manchester Mayoral election, Andy Burnham discusses his career highlights and challenges faced throughout his time in politics with UA92.
Andy Burnham has had an undoubtedly successful career in politics. Throughout his time in Westminster as the Member of Parliament for Leigh, he held three ministerial positions in the Home Office, Treasury and Department for Health. Prior to his move out of parliamentary politics he also stood in two Labour Party leadership contests, however he was defeated by Ed Miliband in 2010 and by Jeremy Corbyn in 2015. He has been the elected Mayor of Manchester since 2017.
POLITICS: CAREERISM OR COMMUNITY?
It is evident that improving the lives of his constituents whilst he was an MP and now the people of Greater Manchester has always been central to Burnham’s politics. He believes that one of the biggest misconceptions within UK politics is that all politicians are self-serving careerists.
“I think from my time in Westminster, I would say I think that three out of four are in it to do something that’s good for their community or wider society and I know it doesn’t always seem that way, but they are,” Burnham told UA92 in a recent interview.
He revealed that saying, “I can’t tell you what it meant to get sixty-three-percent of the vote then in 2017, I didn’t come into politics to please people anywhere else; I just care about the people here that’s always been what I’m about the people of the North West the people of Greater Manchester.”
HILLSBOROUGH A DEFINING MOMENT
Throughout his career he has worked on many issues but is especially proud of the work that he did in relation to Hillsborough, reopening the inquiry into who was at fault on that fateful day. After making a speech as the Secretary for Culture, Media, and Sport after which he received criticism from Liverpool fans, he worked to reopen the inquiry into the event and achieved a new verdict for the people of Liverpool.
To do so, he had to go against his own government.
“It was often the case that the people in the North West were treated as second-class citizens and Hillsborough was a classic example of this,” Burnham recalled.
“Although it was a really tough day that day, I did resolve to do something on the back of it and go against the government that I was in and took a stand.
“It wasn’t easy to do that, but I did it and in the end, I turned it around and got people to reopen the inquest and we got a new verdict, so I think if something matters most to me personally in my professional life it is that.”
A CONTROVERSIAL CAREER?
Throughout his career he has been a controversial personality within politics, often striking up rivalries with Conservative Party politicians. “The Tories do go for me quite a lot you may have you may have noticed, they always have to be honest, I think it’s because I rattle their cage a bit.”
Arguably his most distinctive Tory rivalry came about in October 2020, surrounding Manchester being put under tier three restrictions. He said: “I did what I did there not for the show of it or the theatre of it, it built up because what they were doing was treating people in Greater Manchester different from the way they would treat people in London.”
This feud led to his daughter being targeted by journalists. “My daughter who’s at university started to get journalists from an unmentionable newspaper following her round trying to write a story on her that she was doing things wrong at university.”
He explained that rivalries can lead to harsh criticisms within the media, describing the relationships between Westminster politicians and journalists as “cosy”, as politicians can contact their friends and ask them to write damaging articles.
Burnham outlined the importance of resilience, a character trait likely to be of particular importance in the upcoming mayoral election.
“You know in my profession on social media… we can get it – not as much as footballers because they sometimes get absolutely battered – but we get it a bit as politicians as well and that can drag you down.”
But he explained that, despite having experienced criticism throughout his career both within the media and from other politicians, he remains motivated. “[It’s about] having that focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’re all about and what you’re trying to achieve.”