Starmer won’t bulldoze local government, says Burnham after Glastonbury speech

Andy Burnham said Sir Keir Starmer will not “bulldoze” local government if he wins the General Election, after telling a Glastonbury crowd he will continue to “assert” Manchester’s devolved status.

The Labour Mayor of Manchester was speaking at Worthy Farm’s Speakers Forum about the “crisis of council funding” with Guardian journalist and podcaster John Harris, where he arrived wearing a green bucket hat sporting the words “Salford Lads Club”, inspired by an album from The Smiths.

He told the audience of around a hundred people to vote for “change” and that he has seen promising signs there will be “improved” devolution if Sir Keir Starmer wins next week’s election.

“I think it will change if Labour get in, it will improve, but it won’t stop being very difficult,” Mr Burnham told the crowd.

“We’re going to continue to assert our devolved status.”

Asked by the PA news agency after the talk how he will defend his constituents against centralised power in Westminster, Mr Burnham said: “We will work with whoever’s in government to get the balance right.

“We’ve had a difficult debate already on planning in Greater Manchester… I’ll be honest, not everybody was happy with the result, but we’ve now got a plan that will allow us to go quickly (to bring) the growth the country needs.

“I think with planning reform, we could do things better, but it must be with local people as much as you possibly can.

Mr Burnham (right) speaking to journalist John Harris (left) at Glastonbury Festival
Mr Burnham (right) was speaking to journalist John Harris (left) (Edd Dracott/PA)

“It’s not Keir’s style to just bulldoze things through, I think he’ll work with us to get the balance right.”

Mr Burnham, who was met by applause from a supportive crowd, condemned the local government approach of the Conservatives – offering examples such as discrepancies in furlough during the Covid-19 pandemic and the cancellation of HS2.

On a question about climate change, he was greeted to several whoops as he responded: “Change is coming and honestly the mayors will bring the radicalism to the next government.

“We’re more ambitious than any party government would feel able to be because we want to move as fast as possible for our for our area.”

Mr Burnham will speak again at the festival on Sunday about the housing crisis alongside campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa.

Audience members speaking to Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham at Glastonbury Festival
Members of the audience came up to Mr Burnham after the talk to speak with him (Tom Leese/PA)

“It’s been great to come here… I did sort of weave through a few marginal seats on my on my way, but I’m here to carry a political message as well,” he said.

“Just four or five days now till polling day, the message I carried here was vote to make change a certainty.

“To me Glastonbury is an antidote to the culture wars… an amazing, positive gathering of people… it’s like the Britain of London 2012.”

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner was billed to speak at the festival until she cancelled earlier this week due to General Election commitments.

“I just love Angela, she’s brilliant, she’s such an asset to Labour Party,= and she needs to be around the country now,” Mr Burnham said.

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham speaking about devolution at Glastonbury Festival
Mr Burnham’s talk focused on devolution (Edd Dracott/PA)

“I’m here because obviously we do need to carry a political message into this space, with just days to go (until the election).

“So I’m here to do a job that perhaps the the Shadow Cabinet can’t do – as well as maybe have the odd beer while I’m here.”