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Burnham Will Make Distinctive Labour Case for Staying in EU

25/08/2015 18:15 BST | Updated 25/08/2016 10:59 BST

In the coming year we face one of the biggest battles of our political lives. The EU referendum represents a historic choice for British people with long term consequences for our country and for our Continent.

I am committed to campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the referendum as I believe Britain must continue to be a proactive European partner and must lead the way in reforming the EU so it works for everyone.

For this to happen we must convince people why we believe passionately in the EU. We must avoid talk about treaty change, summits, renegotiation and instead talk about why a 'yes' vote is vital to secure jobs, rights and fairness.

I know that with Andy Burnham as Labour leader we can reach out to those who feel disenfranchised. He will put forward the positives of the EU without being afraid to acknowledge that not everything is perfect.

More importantly I believe he is the man to outline a clear and distinctive Labour case for staying in the European Union.

And it is not only as Labour's leader in Europe that I want Andy to be leader - it is also as a committed Labour activist and trade unionist.

Like many in the Labour party I have still not recovered from the general election defeat and I am not sure if I ever will.

As a veteran of countless Labour campaigns, the defeat in May hurt me more than any before. Especially knowing that thousands of people across the country were depending on a Labour victory to protect vital public services like the NHS, to end the abuse of zero hour contracts and to make sure people across Britain no longer had to rely on food banks.

I will be honest, I believe the case we put to the electorate on 5 May, was strong, but I am also aware that the Conservative message of negativity throughout the election mixed with the perception that Labour still couldn't be trusted on the economy, created a poisonous narrative from which we just couldn't recover.

Everybody knows the story; we were annihilated by the SNP in Scotland, beaten by the Tories in the south of England, while Ukip cut into our support in some traditional heartlands.

In each case the message was the same, people didn't think we were truly standing up for them.

I will admit the road back to recovery still looks long, but I believe that if we start this journey by building a Labour party that looks different, thinks different and sounds different we will quickly start to rebuild trust with the British people.

To do this I believe we need a leader who represents something different and already connects with those he meets, somebody who can not only unite our party, but restore Labour's place in the hearts of the British people. That man is Andy Burnham.

I have had the honour to serve as the leader of Labour's MEPs for nearly seven years and in that time I have seen and worked with many different political leaders from different countries, not all of them have been outstanding.

Some are smart but lack empathy, some are brave but lack a clear vision, while some are eager but lack the experience needed to succeed.

I want to assure you, when I speak and work with Andy Burnham I see someone who has the empathy, the skills, the experience and more importantly the character to lead Labour to victory in 2020.