THE BLOG

Andy Burnham Is the Only Candidate Who Can Unite the Party and Unite the Country

24/07/2015 13:41 BST | Updated 24/07/2016 10:59 BST

First impressions count, and the first time I heard Andy Burnham speak was at an event in Weymouth just before the 2010 General Election. It had been a tough time for both of us, as our lives had been touched by cancer. That night, he spoke with real passion and emotion - it was a brilliant, rousing speech, which provoked a long standing ovation.

After I was elected to Parliament, Andy visited my local hospital in Barnsley. He spent hours talking to staff and patients. It was impressive to see the amount of time he was prepared to give to meet people and to actually listen to what they had to say.

He came across as authentic, decent and approachable. I have come to know that he really is all of those things.

A recent Ipsos Mori poll has shown that Andy leads the race as the candidate who people think is most likely to make a good Prime Minister, both among the public and among Labour supporters. He gets the highest endorsement out of all four candidates in every part of the country, including in Scotland (where he is the only one to achieve a net positive rating), and is ranked highest by Tory, Ukip and Lib Dem voters.

This shows beyond doubt that Andy is the only candidate who can unite the Party, unite the country and win back the voters we lost to other parties at the last two elections.

That's because he is competent, compassionate and, perhaps most importantly, knows how to speak to people in a language that they understand.

Andy completely gets the fact that, for too long, our politics has been shaped by those who permanently inhabit the Westminster bubble.

His life is rooted in the community he represents in the North West. He knows that, all too often, the public have been turned off politics. In part this is because they either think politicians don't understand their lives, speaking in a language that they can't relate to.

Andy does understand. He speaks like an ordinary person, not in political soundbites.

That's one reason why I think he is the best person to lead Labour at what is, admittedly, a tough time for our party.

But there are other reasons as well, because those qualities are not enough on their own. We need a leader with a clear vision for our country - on how we deliver a fairer and more prosperous Britain.

He will stay true to Labour values whilst delivering a vision for our country that people from every background can get behind. Because it is only by widening our appeal and reconnecting with voters that we will achieve victory again in 2020.

Andy is demonstrating real leadership with important contributions in areas that people really care about.

He rightly believes that we must be the Party that helps everyone to get on in life. That people at all levels of society share the same hopes: a secure job, a decent home; a good standard of living; prospects for their kids; and proper care for their parents. And we need bold ideas to make those aspirations a reality.

This is the right agenda, both for the country and the Party.

This leadership election has turned into something of a political marathon, and there are some who are getting a bit panicky about who might end up winning.

I've met hundreds of our members this year in every corner of the country. They are sensible, decent people - they are our best resource; and one that we've not made enough of over the years.

I believe they will come to the same conclusion that I have reached. That the person best placed to unite our movement and our party, and to lead us back to victory, is Andy.

Dan Jarvis is the Labour MP for Barnsley Central