24 Jul 2015

Is Andy Burnham really the best bet to see off Jeremy Corbyn?

I can spot sexism a mile off, and I’m not afraid to say it. But Lord Falconer – Charlie to his mates – is no sexist.

For those not paying attention to the increasingly-fascinating Labour leadership race, here’s what he said: “Neither Yvette [Cooper] nor Liz [Kendall] can steer the Labour party through the challenging few years ahead when we need a leader who can reach out to all wings of our party and provide unity. As a result, both Liz and Yvette are unlikely to beat Jeremy [Corbyn].”

The only one who can do that, according to Lord Falconer, happens to be a man – Andy Burnham.

Those comments were reported by the Times under the grossly misleading headline: “Women not tough enough to lead Labour,” and all hell has broken loose.

Liz Kendall has taken umbrage, tutting: “It is depressing to see a senior man in the party dismiss the contribution of women so easily. For Charlie to say that women somehow aren’t tough enough to lead the Labour party is a gross insult and, as for standing up to Jeremy Corbyn, I’m the only candidate who has been saying he would be a disaster for our party and that I wouldn’t serve in his shadow cabinet, unlike the candidate Charlie is supporting.”

Labour Party leadership candidates Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham embrace as Yvette Cooper walks off stage after a hustings event in Stevenage

That candidate, as I said earlier, is Andy Burnham. So actually, what cheerful Charlie was saying was a statement of fact, based on YouGov’s opinion poll released early this week. It showed Corbyn triumphing in the final round, with Burnham six points behind. So the two women in the race aren’t, on the only evidence we have available, up to the job of seeing off Corbyn. That’s a great shame, because Labour has never had a female leader, as I’ve blogged before.

Cooper and Kendall will no doubt be depressed by their failure to gain traction, but some would argue that they only have themselves to blame. Where Corbyn was seen at first as the joker in the pack, he’s garnered support because no one is in any doubt about what he stands for, and his refusal to speak in soundbites appeals to a generation tired of identikit politicians.

By contrast, neither Cooper nor Kendall seem clear about what they believe, and while both may be proficient at delivering clips for television, there’s a lack of passion that’s worrying. Is this anything to do with their gender? I’ll probably get trolled for saying it, but women in the public eye tend to come in for more criticism than men, so many are as a result rather cautious fence-sitters. That’s not going to energise supporters.

But I’m afraid to tell Lord Falconer that while his candidate might have a better chance at seeing off Corbyn, he’s no better than the women at making a clear pitch to voters, or sounding like a normal human being rather than someone inside the Westminster bubble.

And it’s worth pointing out that the pollsters might be wrong… again, as they were at the general election. YouGov’s president Peter Kellner points out that Corbyn’s lead is “within the margin of error”. So Lord Falconer might be wrong after all. That still doesn’t make him a sexist.

Follow @cathynewman on Twitter

Tweets by @cathynewman

13 reader comments

  1. Shan Morgain says:

    I’m a strong feminist since 1973, and I have run feminist groups and supported many campaigns.
    It would be great to see a woman as Labour Prime Minister.
    But as Thatcher so disastrously demonstrated, it has to be the right woman.

    COOPER is too, too secretive. She answers questions with evasion.
    This goes in public and private. I emailed her to ask why she thought abstaining was a way of blocking a Bill, and the reply I have is nonsense.
    Nor does she show an economic plan for the country on her website. That’s the crunch of it all. She only speaks of secondary, specific issues.

    KENDALL has twice lost her self control when sexism (appears) to appear. First when asked about her weight she wasted valuable leadership time fussing about it. Second when Falconer said neither she nor Cooper had what it takes right now, she jumped to the conclusion he was speaking of women in general and exploded again.
    She just couldn’t do that as PM. She’d have to keep women’s issues in their place, on their relevant campaigns. Don’t forget I speak as a lifelong feminist here.
    Kendall like Cooper offers no economic program on a national basis. She just picks some issues and talks about diluting Toryism on those items.

    CORBYN by contrast answers questions with clear, solid information. He never goes off topic.
    When he became angry in one interview, it was after 12 solid mins. harassment via interrupting almost everything he said. Even so he stayed polite, just raised his voice, and became insistent.
    To me it looked like a considered, deliberate, controlled moment of anger, to put a bad interviewer in his place. The man was actually better behaved afterwards.

    On economics Corbyn is solid. He proposes a ‘National Investment Bank.’ Its funds would come from the huge £93 billion in tax reliefs and subsidies currently offered to the corporations, and the substantial tax revenues HMRC fails to collect. (£20bn in uncollected tax debt, £20bn in tax avoidance, £80bn in tax evasion.) Yet HMRC has just had its allocation CUT!!!!!

    The ‘National Investment Bank will invest in UK infrastructure (energy, housing, transport, digital) which currently lags behind other developed economies. Britain’s economy is actually outdated. The new Bank will also support higher education and training to bring the deplorable standards provided for young people up to be the best.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    I can’t speak for Falconer, but in my case I assure you it has bugger all to do with sexism.

    The fact is, Harman, Kendall and Cooper are all New Labour. And that faction have betrayed everything the Labour Party once stood for. The same goes for Andy Burnham. They had thirteen years to turn things around, or at least make a good start. Six months before they lost the election Brown claimed, “We have abolished boom and bust.” So much for the “knowledgeable iron chancellor.” And his gang of political traitors.

    When Labour won the 1997 general election they would have won it with a monkey as leader, never mind the war criminal we got. People were sickened by what the tories had done in destroying communities and lives. It was an opportunity thrown away for tenth rate far right careerists to cling to power. Eventually people got pissed off with them too. Which has now put in place the current version of econofascism.

    I hope Corbyn wins, but not because I have any great hopes that he would reverse the horrors of the last thirty years – the advent of the war criminal Blair saw to that – but he might, just might, stop it in its tracks long enough for the country to recover its sense of society and communal decency. If any of the others win you can forget all of that.

    Sexism?….No. Common Sense, as one Tom Paine once said in similar circumstances. But that was over two hundred years ago.

  3. anon says:

    I was worried by Mr Corbyns rant at Krishna Guru Murthy recently, what was that all about? I have found this within the ‘left’ that people can for want of better words be denounced as a ‘enemy of the people’ sort of thing,

    it makes is so easy for the extreme right to do as they please

    Channel 4 news is a caring compassionate news outlet, to see the perceived champion of the left behaving like this [unless he has some insight and can change, not change his views but who he sees as the oppostion] perhaps suggests he is not the right person, but there again, neither are any of the others?

    does the new leader have to be an MP?

  4. Michael Finlan says:

    Hi Cathy,

    Can’t agree with you. Most people don’t care whether a candidate is female or male. The two female candidates in this contest and Andy Burnham are a joke. “Wishy washy” is the best phrase to describe them. No conviction whatsoever. Furthermore they assisted the tory in weakening the welfare state. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

    Nicola Sturgeon has conviction, so does Jeremy Corbyn. They are actually worth listening to. They have something to say.

  5. Dave Donaldson says:

    I watched Mr Corbyn’s interview with Krishna Guru Murthy and cheered I was so delighted that someone at last had the guts to stand up to Krishna’s bullying and interruptions. Corbyn was perfectly correct in accusing Krishna of behaving like a tabloid journalist and not being interested in a reasoned, thoughtful dialogue. Krishna has had plenty of time now to improve his interviewing style but it is still dreadful compared to the other Channel 4 presenters.

  6. John says:

    @ Philip Edwards – Excellent post, very insightful and straight to the point – and in the main, true. – Though i disagree with Jeremy Corbyn being chosen as Leader. Why?….The fact that Tory & UKIP Central Offices are urging their members to pay £3 to register as Labour Member’s – and vote for Corbyn – who would be a wet dream come true (excuse unintended pun), for the 95% right-wing media in the UK – and they’re urging this for a reason. (No smoke without fire). Plus, by the time of the next General Election, he’ll be in his 70’s. Youth is reqd.
    Andy Burnham may have had a chequered history as you mention – but he commands a strong level of support even so. And that’s not just in Liverpool, where he’s worked tirelessly for the Hillsborough Families – (plus other Campaigns & Charities – which he doesn’t throw himself into the spotlight about, including assisting my best friend and his family re: a Charity they set up after losing their son/brother to a totally unprovoked ‘one-punch’ attack). The latter, hand-on-heart, does not inform my choice – i just believe he will turn out to be a better Leader.

    @ anon – As regards Krishnan’s ‘interview’ – i believe the fault lay on both sides. Krishnan ‘has form’ when it comes to letting interviews go wrong (walkout’s such as Quentin Tarantino etc). On the one hand, he asked Jeremy Corbyn a question, wanting a reply – but kept ‘butting in’ every time Jeremy Corbyn tried to reply. I’m sure either of us would have lost our temper – but the important fact is that J.C. has years and years of Politics behind him – and should easily been able to avoid coming across as he did, resorting to shouting – and raising (i imagine), quite a few eyebrows – for the wrong reasons, amongst the viewers (a certain % anyway) – Though lapped up by right-wing spectators / media etc.

  7. John Hill says:

    I watched Liz Kendal on Ch 4 News tonight.
    If she was one of the Blair Babes, that explains her complete lack of professionalism in NOT answering any of the questions asked of her.

    I voted Labour in 1997.
    After what labour did to MY country during its time in office they will NEVER get my vote again.

    No surprise that these Labour Ladies are exhibiting incompetence. ( After all due to the PC labour selection process, they were all on an “All Female Shortlist”)!!

    …no doubt chosen by the PC clowns who have departed from any semblance of the real Labour party.

    Watching Kendal just shout back at your newsreader explains why Labour were demolished in May!!

    Her response that a reasoned opinion from a senior Labour Elder statesman was “Sexist” demonstrates just how brainwashed with political correctness Labour at Westminster level still is.

    These women were levered into office to fill a New Labour “Quota”!

    The comparison between Miss Kendall and the 4News reporter was striking.
    One poised and professional, the other..(the Politician)…incoherant.
    New Labour wrecked British Society. Real People in Britain will never forgive them for trashing our nation with Political Dogma!
    Returning to the Left and beginning every comment with the Blair “Look” has bad connotations from when Blair and his minders had the reins of power in their hands.
    God Help Britain if they ever manage to scrabble into office again.
    TEN YEARS in the Wilderness will do them GOOD!
    They now sneer at people from working class backgrounds.
    They deserve all they get!!
    Well done Ch 4 on an excellent expose`

  8. John Hill says:

    Having watched all these “Labour Contenders”, I have a suggestion!

    There are lots of unemployed Lib Dems out there who seemed to be able to run a country in the 5 years Coalition.

    As they seemed more adult and able to put the Country First during their Coalition period, maybe Labour could recruit Members from LDs who share similar views as labour USED to hold???

    On offer from Labour is a list of nonenities, excellent at Political Correctness, but RUBBISH at reasoned discussion!

    Until Labour purge the lingering effects of Marxism and also of New Labour, they can interrupt reasoned discussion all they like, but voters will still say “No thanks” to quasi Commies!!!!
    Run a country? These PC Clowns couldn`t run a BATH!!

  9. Ben says:

    I really like Jeremy Corbyn and honestly think he would make a good leader, despite what people think, which is mostly over the top, Corbyn is a man of compromise and cross party consensus. I’m from a Labour family, grew up thinking I would support them but 2002 onwards I went right off them. Corbyn has brought me back. He ticks a lot of boxes. He’s passionate and full of ideas on the right issues, he’s doing it his way and not to the same old boring PR formula, he’s offering a proper difference in choice and he is willing to risk unpopularity at the sake of being honest & genuine.

  10. anon says:

    re the Lords story, unpleasant as it is, is this a Police matter? and re the other political story re the chap charged with making up stories, these are not relevant to the main abuse issues but may muddy the waters (if allowed to do so)

  11. George Davies says:

    Cathy Newman’s interview with Andy Burnham was frankly a disgrace. True, she would probably say that she was just asking the ‘tough’ questions that ‘everyone’ is asking and in that respect she is doing her job by ‘exposing’ inconsistencies and hyporacy. But her interviewing technique replicates much the same as other interviewers on CH 4 News and Neasnight, which happen to be the two main News Programmes that I watch. Someone once said that a fool can ask as many questions in a minute as a wiseman can answer in 24 hours. The current way of doing interviews is exact,y the opposite. Ask loads of questions, don’t let the person being interviewed get an answer out, and try and trap him/her with a barrage of accusations and insinuations shouted above an attempted answer to the previous question. Ask the question, allow the answer and then respond. SIMPLE

  12. Roger R-B says:


    There is a whole lot of comment regading “galvanising the Labour party.”
    1. Galvanisation is dipping in Molten Zinc!
    2. Small flaws in the process causes “Galvanic Corrosion.”

    It seems that this form of corrosion has taken hold early in the canvassing process and willl result in “material failure.”

    I would have thought the Labour Party would most have understood this process.

  13. Loxford says:

    If a woman had talked the talk of Corbyn I’d have voted for her without hesitation.
    I’m voting for the policies, the honesty and the clear picture of what he stands for as a person. (He, I know would stand for non gender preference).
    None, I mean all three, of the other candidates are clear and sadly drift into a Westminster haze of ‘politician speak’.
    I’ve voted first for Diane Abbot, standing for London Mayor because I agree with her message.
    A Male.

Comments are closed.