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Andy Burnham Challenges Boris Johnson To Get "Serious" On Levelling Up After Re-election In Greater Manchester

3 min read

Andy Burnham has secured a storming victory in the Greater Manchester mayoral election, and used his acceptance speech to challenge Boris Johnson to deliver on his "levelling up" agenda.

Labour's Burnham, a former MP, secured 67.3% of first preference votes to defeat Conservative challenger Laura Evans and be re-elected — a 4% increase on his performance in 2017.

His victory represents a rare triumph for Labour in England in this week's local elections, with Keir Starmer's party losing the Hartlepool by-election and swathes of council seats to the Tories.

After securing victory, Burnham did not rule out a "distant future" Labour leadership bid, as questions swirl over whether Starmer will ultimately be able to lead the party to power. 

But for now, he said his focus remained on "the best job in the world" in local politics.

"I've been elected mayor of Greater Manchester. That's where my focus is," he told Sky News. 

Burnham used his victory speech to accuse the Prime Minister of failing to deliver on his promises to areas like Greater Manchester and instead diverting funds to a "few favoured places".

He pointed to a perceived "widespread cluelessness" in government as to what "levelling up", and offered to spell it out for Johnson. 

"Here is where I can help you, Prime Minister. Let me define it," Burnham said. 

"It can't be achieved by scattering funds across a few favoured places.

"It can be acheived when you give millions of people in a city region like this one a modern, affordable public transport system, when it costs the same to catch a bus in Harpurhey as it does is Haringey. £1.55, not £4 or more that people pay here".He continued: "Levelling up is achieved when you give all people the dignity of decent work and wages that don't have to be topped up by visits to the food bank, and when you have the kind of jobs here which mean our young people don't have to move south to get on in life, which I had to do 30 years ago.

"Levelling up is achieved when everyone single one of our fellow citizens has the foundation of a good insecure home beneath them.

"Better jobs, better homes, better transport: these will be my top priorities".

Speaking directly to Johnson, he said: "To the Prime Minister I say: work with us, make it happen more quickly. Show us you're serious about levelling us up with London.

"It's in your interest and it's in ours".

Burnham was widely expected to be re-elected by a comfortable margin.

Last year he received local praise for standing up to the government over its decision to impose the most severe coronavirus restrictions on the city region.

He was  dubbed "King of the North" after demanding that ministers give the area's vulnerable people and businesses more money to support them through the pandemic, warning them not to "ignore" Greater Manchester.

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