South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck backs Andy Burnham for Labour leader

Emma Lewell-Buck.
Emma Lewell-Buck.

SOUTH Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has already made her mind up who should lead Labour into the next General Election, it has emerged.

The party is in shell-shock after its General Election defeat, which saw leader Ed Miliband announce his resignation when the Conservatives were returned to power with a majority government.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

His decision immediately led to speculation over who would succeed him as leader of the opposition.

Now two weeks after the election, Mrs Lewell-Buck, who was returned as MP for the town with an increased majority, has revealed her chosen candidate - Liverpudlian Andy Burnham.

The shadow secretary of state for health has emerged as the bookmakers’ front runner too.

And Mrs Lewell-Buck believes he has all the assets to lead her party out of the political wilderness after two general election defeats in a row.

‘Andy is the best person for the job’

Emma Lewell-Buck

She said: “I think Andy would be a fantastic leader.

“He understands that Labour needs to change after our defeat in the election, but he won’t ever allow the party to lose touch with the working people that the Labour Party was founded to serve.

“He also has the experience and strength to meet the Tories head on and stop them from trashing our public services.”

The South Shields MP, who won 18,589 votes at the general election, had received the support of departed leader Mr Miliband during her first campaign to win her seat at a by-election in 2013.

She added: “Labour needs to be an effective opposition and Andy is the best person for the job.”

Immediately after this month’s election defeat, Mrs Lewell-Buck pledged to “fight hard for people in Shields and oppose Tory attacks on the worst off”.

She added: “Obviously I am disappointed that Labour didn’t get the votes we needed to form a government. But as opposition MPs we can still make a huge difference, and I will be working hard in Parliament to defend vulnerable people from Tory cuts, protect our NHS, and improve pay and conditions for working people.”

Meanwhile, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn was unavailable for comment on his favoured candidate for his party’s ‘top job’.

But former South Shields MP David Miliband, now working for an international charity in New York, has also ruled himself out of a leadership challenge.

The former foreign secretary, who lost out in a leadership battle with his brother Ed in 2010, criticised his brother’s tenure in charge of Labour.

He said: “I think that the voters have delivered a very clear verdict. And unless Labour is able to embrace a politics of aspiration and inclusion, a politics that defies some of the traditional labels that have dogged politics for so long, then it’s not going to win.”

Forty-five-year-old Mr Burnham has already secured the backing of both modernising MPs such as Dan Jarvis and Rachel Reeves, and the blessing of the trade unions is a sign of his potential to unite all wings of the party. Yesterday another potential contender, Tristram Hunt, revealed he does not plan to run for the leadership, instead giving his backing to Liz Kendall.

Mr Hunt said he could not be confident of enough support from fellow MPs to launch a bid.

Yvette Cooper and Mary Creagh have also put themselves forward for the leadership.

Candidates must get the support of 35 of the party’s MPs in order to stand in the contest, which will be decided in September. Labour’s Harriet Harmon is temporary leader in the meantime.