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Sunday 31 May 2015

Burnham On Welfare - Or Maybe Not

The Tory-supporting press clearly believes that the Labour leadership race will end up with Andy Burnham victorious, and nowhere can this be more easily seen than at the cheap and nasty Sun Nation site, where readers have been regaled with6 REASONS THE TORIES WOULD LOVE ANDY BURNHAM AS LABOUR LEADER”. The mind games from Rupe’s downmarket troops are as lame as ever.
Did he say that? He surely didn't

But a more subtle undermining of Burnham is being undertaken across the Fourth Estate, as hacks and pundits exhibit a creative reinterpretation of what he has actually said, to make it appear he is tacking to the right. This is, in part, deliberate: it’s a favourite tactic of the right - to wind up the left into believing that the politician in question is agin them. The ground on which much of this deception is taking place is over welfare.

Or rather, it is what the press, and all too many commentators, are calling welfare. Last Friday’s speech by Burnham is a textbook example: “Andy Burnham performed another political U-turn yesterday when he launched an extraordinary attack on welfare culture … Other candidates scrambled to back him on welfare reform” told the Mail. This is followed by a whole paragraph on what Burnham is going to do about, er, welfare.

Even the Guardian used the W-word: “Labour's Andy Burnham suggests he might back further welfare cuts”. He had been asked “after the speech about his views on welfare”, and “He said Labour was right to challenge indiscriminate welfare cuts”. Furthermore, “Burnham said he backed the shadow cabinet position on welfare revealed by the acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman”. That’s a lot of talk about welfare.

And how about another W-word - workshy? Here, City AM was quite sure of its ground: “Andy Burnham will today admit that Labour got it wrong on business and the economy, and that the party cannot win the next election if voters believe it gives the workshy an ‘easy ride’”. So one might form the belief that Burnham has been talking about welfare, and the workshy. And that would be totally wrong.

You can see what Burnham actually said in his Friday speech HERE. Despite all the press talk of Burnham trashing Mil The Younger’s leadership, he actually said of the party’s election campaign “we managed to put up a fight.We developed a powerful critique about how globalisation and the casualisation of work had changed lives and left people feeling insecure. We had good individual policies”.

And he did not, repeat did not, repeat DID NOT mention “welfare” even once. Nor did he use the term “workshy”. Why should this matter? Ah well. Those are the terms that suggest Burnham, or any of the other leadership hopefuls, are fighting their campaign on ground approved by the right-wing press and commentariat. Their use is meant to wind up the left and precipitate the kinds of splits that are meat and drink to the media.

That is why it is important for the Burnham campaign to push back against that agenda.

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