Three senior Labour politicians have shown an interest in running for the new post of Metropolitan Mayor of Greater Manchester, the contest gaining significantly more attention after Bury South MP Ivan Lewis and interim Mayor Tony Lloyd were joined by Leigh MP Andy Burnham. All are mainstream Labour figures. But in one Metropolitan Borough, the local MP is reportedly not happy at Burnham’s addition to the race.
Popular in Rochdale. But not with the local MP
To no surprise at all, that MP is the still nominally Labour figure of Simon Danczuk, who has deemed Lewis and Lloyd acceptable (Lloyd is a family friend, and is believed to have been invited to the wedding of Danczuk and now second ex-wife Karen), but he backed Liz Kendall in last year’s leadership election and dislikes Burnham. But here a problem enters: Danczuk is still suspended from Labour’s ranks.
This means he is barred from his local Labour club. But he does have his faithful retainers in the local party still willing to do his bidding. So when the Co-Op hustings event took place on Friday evening, and Burnham turned up, there reportedly blocking his way was the figure of Danczuk loyalist Allen Brett, who apparently believed the MP for Leigh was not a member of the Co-Op. But Burnham has been a member for some years now.
The bizarre confrontation was soon resolved, and Burnham took his place alongside Lloyd and Lewis. But that was not the end of it: after Ivan Lewis turned up unannounced at the last meeting of Rochdale Constituency Labour Party and spent some time telling the gathering why he was the best candidate - Lewis was in the vanguard of those who refused to work with Jeremy Corbyn - some members were most unhappy.
Why, they asked, was there no meeting with Burnham scheduled? Not unreasonably, the CLP secretary was asked to set one up. Nothing happened. In the meantime, some members decided to set up their own Q&A with Burnham. Brett and fellow Danczuk loyalist Richard Farnell have apparently tried to stop it happening, but have failed. Meantime, the town’s MP is seething that Burnham will appear at the Labour club while he’s barred.
It gets worse: after the lack of response from the CLP secretary, they were by-passed and another meeting set up with Burnham, who is now going to make two visits to Rochdale, and by now will have figured out that there is some unhappiness with the way that Simon Danczuk’s supporters are trying to keep a mainstream Labour candidate from talking to the rank and file members. And it gets worse still.
Those unhappy at Simon Danczuk and his pals are now telling anyone who will listen that a vote for Ivan Lewis or Tony Lloyd is a vote for the suspended MP. Andy Burnham is due in town on Wednesday evening next, and can expect a significant turnout of members, not just to listen to him making his pitch, but also to send a message to Messrs Danczuk, Brett and Farnell. It is not only the town’s MP who has something at stake here.
Zelo Street may well have first-hand news of goings-on later in the week. Stay tuned!