A political commentator has pointed out that Andy Burnham could have been halfway through his tenure as prime minister right now if Labour had not elected Jeremy Corbyn, and could have even stopped Brexit in the process.
Burnham was beaten to the job of Labour leader by Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 after Ed Miliband resigned and Margaret Beckett agreed to nominate the left-winger for the job – a decision she said was the “worst mistake of her life”.
Rosa Prince, writing for the Telegraph, said that had Beckett not backed Corbyn the mayor of Manchester could have been “halfway through his first term as prime minister round about now”.
She explained: “It’s a big “if,” and a flight of fancy heavily reliant on butterfly’s wing theory, but it makes for an interesting diversion.
“Had Mr Burnham been leading his party at the time of the 2016 referendum instead of the Eurosceptic Mr Corbyn, might the vote have gone the other way?
“If not, it seems likely that he would have supplanted Theresa May at the 2017 general election, meaning a quite different outcome to the EU negotiations; plus no 2019 general election, no Red Wall turned blue to bolster an 80-seat majority for Boris Johnson.”
Burnham went on to leave the House of Commons to become mayor of Greater Manchester, having been applauded for his fight with Boris Johnson’s government over coronavirus restrictions.
Prince said the government had “foolishly allowed a narrative to build” about their tiered system, which now “pose an existential threat to Mr Johnson’s prospects of winning a second term”.
“Unless they act soon to defuse Mr Burnham and his anorak, that narrative will soon become one of Labour versus Tory, of posh boys in No 10 seeking to crush the working-classes in the north, to use them, in Mr Burnham’s words, as a ‘petri dish,’ because they couldn’t care less about what happens north of the Watford Gap.”
She added: “That is why, if the rumours are true, it was crazy for shadowy figures in Downing Street (the finger has been pointed at chief whip Mark Spencer) to have encouraged Red Wall Tories to sign a letter criticising Mr Burnham for keeping local people “in a state of suspended terror” by not agreeing to the restrictions.”