Andy Burnham 'Absolutely Happy' Labour Ditched Registered Supporters

The Greater Manchester mayor and future leadership hopeful said the 'problem' of allowing non-members to vote in contests had been fixed.
Andy Burnham ran in the 2010 and 2015 Labour leadership elections.
Andy Burnham ran in the 2010 and 2015 Labour leadership elections.
Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

Andy Burnham has said it was right for Labour to ditch registered supporters as part of Keir Starmer’s shakeup of the party’s leadership election rules.

The Greater Manchester mayor said a previous party rule allowing supporters to pay a one-off fee to vote in leadership contests had been a problem.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, Burnham said the rule changes were “a step forward, I guess”.

“I’ve lived through two Labour leadership elections - one in 2010 under very different rules to the one in 2015.

“I personally felt the rules in 2010 were not right at all actually, and 2015 was better in some respects.

“But I think it was the registered supporters that was the problem.”

The “registered supporters” scheme allowed non-members to pay £25 to vote in the 2020 contest and in 2015, when Corbyn won the leadership, the fee was just £3.

Asked whether he was pleased the rule had been scrapped, he said: “I’m absolutely happy about that, that’s got to be right, and that’s the most important bit I would say.

“I’m not against a role for MPs in nominations...but I wouldn’t have wanted to see a return to the days when MPs had votes that massively outweighed everybody else’s.”

Key measures that were voted through include raising the threshold of support of Labour MPs to get on the leadership ballot from 10% to 20% and making it compulsory for members to be signed up for six months before they vote in any election.

Another rule change that has received less attention is one which makes it more difficult to deselect MPs by raising the threshold for triggering a selection contest.

Starmer’s reforms were backed by 53.67% to 46.33% and were significantly watered down from his original proposals following a backlash from unions and members.

Initially Starmer wanted to ditch the one-member one-vote system in favour of an old-style electoral college system comprised of MPs, unions and members which some had argued was less democratic.

Burnham was also critical of the fact that Starmer had not included regional mayors in his original electoral college plan.

“MEPs used to be a part of the college - they’ve gone. Regional mayors are new things that have emerged and we’re still not recognised.”

Burnham, who has long been tipped as a future Labour leader, lost against Jeremy Corbyn in the 2015 election and to Ed Miliband in the 2010 contest.

He has not ruled out running for the leadership again, saying in a recent interview with Sky News: “In the distant future, if the party were ever to feel it needed me, well I’m here and they should get in touch.”

In an interview with the BBC, Burnham said Labour could not wait until the next election to come up with new policies.

He told HuffPost UK that front and centre of this should be a national care service - something he proposed over 10 years ago while health secretary.

“The big one I would say is a national care service,” he said.

“I was the first person to propose that and I will keep coming back to that - we really shouldn’t be leaving conference in my view without having endorsed that.”

The metro mayor also denied that Labour’s conference had been overshadowed by infighting and by comments made by deputy leader Angela Rayner, in which she called the Conservatives “scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic”.

“We have strong feelings always in politics,” he said.

“Politics has got to be about passion and speaking directly and not mincing your words...but on the other hand there is a need for respectful discourse.

“It’s not for me to tell other politicians how to express themselves but personally I would not have used that language.”