Andy Burnham: I am Labour's 'change candidate'
Andy Burnham has cast himself as the “change candidate” for the Labour leadership, as he revealed Rachel Reeves as the latest high-profile figure to back his campaign.
The Shadow Health Secretary, who is the bookmakers’ favourite to win the contest to succeed Ed Miliband after Chuka Umunna pulled out this week, said the deficits run by the last Labour government before the financial crash had been too high.
Ms Reeves, herself a member of Labour's Shadow Cabinet, has been recruited to re-establish Labour's "reputation on the economy" and to reconnect with the business community.
Mr Burnham told the Andrew Marr show: "I want to come back to this issue of economic competence because we are not going to put ourselves in a position to win next time unless we deal directly with this.
"The first term of our government in 1997-2001 we ran more surpluses than the Tories did in 18 years. In our second term we began to invest in schools and hospitals.
"Now that was the right thing to do because they were in a dreadful state, but here is the point that spending didn’t cause the crash but we allowed the deficit to get too high in the middle part of the last decade," he added.
Mr Burnham also revealed that other Labour figures including Lord Falconer, who served in Tony Blair's Cabinet as Justice Secretary, and MP Michael Dugher were backing his campaign for the party leadership.
The Shadow Health Secretary rejected claims he was standing as the "union candidate" and said he would unite all areas of the party as leader.
"I’m the unifying candidate, I am bringing all parts of the Labour movement together. I am proud of those links, I am proud that ordinary working people will be taking part in this contest," he said.
When pressed on his relationship and communications with Unite boss Len McCluskey since the election, who this week called for the resignation of Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Mr Burnham said they had discussed the party's "devastating defeat".
However, the Leigh MP reiterated his claim that he was building support from "all parts of the Labour party", including fellow members and business leaders.