All the Labour leadership candidates were invited to speak at the Unison annual meeting yesterday in Leeds and take part in a hustings. I was there with Andy Burnham and was really impressed by the level of support he has with many Unison members. Speaking to members there it was obvious the respect and affection Andy is held in by many in the public sector and particularly in the NHS. Knowing Andy’s commitment first hand, many having worked with him whilst he was Health Secretary, and the fact that Andy has shadowed staff at every level has made a huge impression, that was obvious.
Then it was on to a house meeting I’d arranged for Andy to meet some local members in Rothwell. Discussions included some of Andy’s big ideas, his leadership bid is based on Labour becoming the party of “aspirational socialism”, the members there liked the use of the word socialist which had seemed to become a bit of a ‘dirty word’ of late in the party. Andy talked about his ideas that include the large-scale purchase of private accommodation by councils and for a national care service funded by a fair levy on estates, instead of the unfair ‘dementia tax’ that people are saddled with at the moment, which means working people who are the first in their family to own their own homes are forced into losing everything they have worked for to pay for care in older age.
With Andy we will get a leader of conviction, someone who cares about people , is passionate about the Labour Party and the NHS and someone who can communicate with everyone, which crucially means that members and voters know he can connect with them because he is one of them.