Andy Burnham - Northern Soul



I was born in Aintree (Liverpool) into a working class family, my parents actually met at Maghull telephone exchange. I lived in Formby and then aged one, my dad got a job in Manchester city centre and we moved to Leigh – the constituency where I later went on to represent in Parliament. Although I moved to Manchester at a very early age I was born in Liverpool and have remained an Everton supporter.

Person you look up to?

A few really, David Blunkett was always a source of wisdom, and the late Paul Goggins who I depended upon hugely. Ultimately my parents and two brothers have always been the final court of opinion. Family is really important to me.

Guilty pleasure

Craft lager. I love the pub and on the few occasions I can get there, for me it’s a place where you can get yourself back together and step outside the professional arena for a bit.

Best book you've ever read?

Well I studied English at university so I struggle with questions like this simply because I read that many books, however one that stands out is ‘Selected Poems’ by Tony Harrison.

Something people wouldn't know about you is?

I don’t dye my hair.

Pinch yourself moment?

I’ve been fortunate to have many and I’ve been in positions I could never have imagined. Recently I was on stage at the Victoria Warehouse introducing the Courteeners, which was pretty cool!

How do you switch off?

A mixture of family, football, beer, BBQ and sport - all at the same time if possible! I love all sport; I’ll watch pretty much any sport. I find when watching it you can escape politics and properly unwind.

Best piece of advice for others?

Couple of bits really – our northern DNA doesn’t naturally give us belief in ourselves. So fight that DNA. We go through life expecting a tap on the shoulder and we shouldn’t. I’ve taken longer getting on my feet felling confident. Contrastingly, us Northerners lack that arrogant streak. We just need a bit more self-belief, follow your passions and don’t chase the money - it won’t leave you as fulfilled later on in life.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

It was an unpaid reporter at the Middleton Guardian.

I ended up walking out, telling the editor to shove his job. He made me the whipping boy and what I learnt from this initial experience is to support the people at the lower front of the organisation.


We know you are spearheading Manchester’s drive to tackle homelessness. Could you tell us more about your ‘A Bed Every Night’ scheme?

We’ve taken the big step of opening beds in shelters every night of the week all year round. Amazing people like Vincent Kompany have helped us fund it. Across Manchester we’ve harnessed the power of football and music. Launched on 1st November 2018, we’ve supported over 2000 people and taken 588 off the streets.

What in your opinion has prompted Manchester’s Homelessness problem?

There’s no easy way of pinpointing the problem, however, I think the overall insecurity of modern life means the security net that used to be there now has gaping holes that allow people to unfortunately fall through.  

We know you hope to end the need for rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020. Do you really think it’s possible in that time frame?

I’ve recently been to Finland and they’ve done it. The country had a real problem and they’ve solved it. It’s a big challenge but it’s my top priority.

Why is homelessness the issue you have chosen to tackle, is it close to your heart in some way?

It is. I funded a homeless shelter when MP for Leigh and I give my 15% pay increase to the charity I set up to tackle homelessness. There’s a humanitarian crisis on our own streets and if I can’t fix it, what can I fix? I’m leading from the front; we need to change the way we deal with issues lie this. There are too many words and not enough actions.

You made a bid for Labour leader in 2015, unfortunately, it was unsuccessful. How did you brush yourself down after that loss? And what do you think it takes mentally to keep pushing on when things don’t go your way?

It’s hard - especially being the front-runner - but nothing is a given in politics, hence why I fell out of love with Westminster. I was in this to change politics and knew if didn’t win then I wouldn’t stick around. In losing, although it was tough it did help draw a line under Westminster life, enabling me to have a clear sight to come home and focus on what I care about – North West England.

The defeat was bruising; leadership elections always are. Getting rejected from people you knew was tough, but it epitomised the shallowness of Westminster. I was always the loyal Labour person, a team player and thought it would serve me well but it didn’t come my way and it exposed the fickleness of politics at a national level. 

What would your advice be for youngsters who do take an interest and are looking to get into politics?

You can change things that you can’t through other jobs. It’s a tough job; you sacrifice things, but you get the ability to change the world. The 19-year old me at Hillsborough couldn’t believe I’d play a roll in rectifying things year later. You can make real change happen that matters. I was born in Aintree, my parents didn’t go to uni, so if I can do it, anyone can.

We understand you want to make Manchester the UK’s top digital city by 2030, how do you propose to do that?

We’re on with it already with our industrial strategy. Greater Manchester has world-class potential; at the minute we’re investing in the 5G rollout. We’re a clear second place behind London right now, but with our potential who knows how the digital landscape could change…

Andy Burnham - Greater Manchester Mayor

Andy Burnham - Greater Manchester Mayor

BusinessTim Byrne