Andy Burnham is tipped as new Labour leader after his landslide victory in key mayoral race 

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'King of the North' Andy Burnham is tipped as new Labour leader after his landslide victory in key mayoral race

Andy Burnham saw a landslide re-election as Greater Manchester mayorFormer Cabinet Minister made clear he still had ambitions to be Labour leader  Mr Burnham dubbed King of the North after standing up to Boris Johnson 

By Brendan Carlin and Sam Merriman For The Mail On Sunday

Published: 22:17 BST, 8 May 2021 | Updated: 22:27 BST, 8 May 2021

Pressure mounted on Sir Keir Starmer last night after Labour's so-called 'King of the North' stormed to victory yesterday in a key mayoral race.

Andy Burnham marked his landslide re-election as Greater Manchester mayor by making it clear that he still had ambitions to be Labour leader.

The former Cabinet Minister said that was for 'one day' in the future, stressing his priority was his new mandate as mayor.

Mr Burnham's popularity has already led to him becoming one of the bookmakers' favourites to be the next Labour leader – even though he is no longer in the Commons.

Andy Burnham, 51, has made it clear that he still has ambitions to be Labour leader

And Labour MPs said Mr Burnham's triumph yesterday, on a thumping 67.3 per cent of the first-round vote, undermined Sir Keir's authority as leader given how in the West Midlands, Labour candidate Liam Byrne failed to unseat Tory mayor Andy Street. 

One former Shadow Cabinet Minister said of Mr Burnham: 'Andy's victory shows it – the problem is not Labour, but Keir.'

Others said ex-MP Mr Burnham, who has tried twice before for the party leadership, showed what 'a charismatic Northern leader' could do in Labour's beleaguered Red Wall.

However, the newly re-elected mayor drew criticism from some MPs for distancing himself from the national party and seeking to establish what one called 'the Burnham Independent Labour Party'.

Mr Burnham, 51, was dubbed King of the North after standing up to Boris Johnson over his treatment of the Manchester region in the Government's Covid lockdown plans last year.

Asked about his future ambitions yesterday, the mayor openly raised the prospect that 'one day' he would stand again for the top job.

He effectively ruled out any immediate challenge, quashing speculation that he could return to the Commons as Labour candidate in a new by-election expected later this year.

And Labour MPs said Mr Burnham's triumph yesterday, on a thumping 67.3 per cent of the first-round vote, undermined Sir Keir's authority as leader

Mr Burnham told the BBC: 'I'm not just going to put myself forward unless they [Labour] needed me one day in the future, but we're not at that day.'

He sparked raised eyebrows in a Sky interview by referring to 'they' – and not 'we' – when he referred to the Labour Party.

He said: 'In the distant future, if the party felt they needed me... they should get in touch.'

Mr Burnham, who stood down as an MP in 2017, signalled that North London MP Sir Keir had to 'end the London-centric Labour Party I have been in all my life'.

His result yesterday surpassed his first victory four years ago when he won 63.4 per cent of the vote.

Yesterday, his closest rival was Tory candidate Laura Evans, who received 19.6 per cent of the vote.

In the West Midlands, former John Lewis managing director Mr Street crushed Labour candidate Mr Byrne's hopes of winning the post in the key political battle ground for both parties.

Mr Street, 57, won on second preference votes after securing 49 per cent of the first ballot with 299,318 votes.

Former Minister Mr Byrne won 244,009 in the first round.

Mr Street was first elected to the position in 2017 when he defeated Labour's Sion Simon.

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