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Andy Burnham Is the Best Candidate to Win Back Labour Votes Lost to Ukip in the East

20/06/2015 15:12 BST | Updated 20/06/2016 10:59 BST

Since 7 May, we've heard a lot about the sweeping gains by the SNP, leaving the map of Scotland almost totally devoid of red. But take a look at the election map for the South East, South West and Eastern regions of England and the picture for both the 2010 and 2015 elections is depressingly similar.

The results from this last election saw Labour move from Southern discomfort, to downright agony.

That doesn't mean that we should give in to despair, or feel that there is no way back. However, it does mean that our party now has a duty to pick a leader that is capable of speaking and listening to people right across the country, especially in the East of England. That's why I'm glad that the first constituency hustings of this Labour leadership campaign will be held in Stevenage, exactly the kind of seat we have to win back in 2020.

I know what it takes to win in this part of the country. Between 1997 to 2005 I represented the people of Harwich, Essex in Parliament. Following the last boundary changes, Clacton is the constituency that makes up most of my old seat. It is now a Ukip stronghold - in May Douglas Carswell secured 19,642 votes, the Tories 16,205 and Labour had dropped to just 6,364 votes.

Right across the East of England we saw a similar pattern, large numbers of votes slipping away from Labour to Ukip - and the real winners were the Tories.

It doesn't have to be like this. There's no reason that Labour can't win back seats and votes in the South East of England. We have done it before and we can do it again.

People in Essex, Kent, Suffolk and Hertfordshire have the same aspirations as people in parts of the UK where Labour have been successful. They want the chance to find a secure well paid job, good schools, opportunities for their kids, housing they can afford and to know their parents will be looked after in later life.

At times in the run up to the election, we were talking about some of the concerns of people in towns like Clacton, Thurrock and Grays, but too often it sounded like we were speaking a different language. Also, the party simply didn't listen enough to the views of people in these areas and bring forward a message that resonated with them.

That's why I'm backing Andy Burnham to be the next leader of the Labour Party. He has the ability to engage with people outside of the Westminster bubble and reconnect with millions of voters who have lost trust in Labour, especially in the South. Andy can reach out to everyone across the country - every person, every family and every business - and convince them once again that Labour is the party that has their best interest at heart.

Anyone who has knocked doors in southern seats knows that immigration is a massive issue for voters. Door, after door, after door we hear people saying that they simply did not trust Labour on immigration. On this, Andy has been crystal clear and under his leadership Labour will face up to this difficult issue. He will rebuild trust on immigration by proactively speaking about the issue. He's not going to copy Tory arguments, or stoke division over immigration, but he will bring forward better Labour solutions. The task is not to abandon Labour values, but to show that we've got the strength and the competence to put those values into practice

I hope as many people as possible can get to the Stevenage hustings this weekend, because I've no doubt that they will see the same qualities in Andy that I do. He's the candidate best placed to speak, as well as listen, to people in the South and frankly unless we do that in the run up 2020 there's simply no way back to power for Labour.

Ivan Henderson is a local Labour councillor and former MP for Harwich