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  1. ITV Report

Labour too London-centric, says Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham Credit: PA

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has warned that Labour remains too "London-centric" after no civic leader from the north of England was given a speaking slot at party conference.

The former cabinet minister said he was disappointed that London mayor Sadiq Khan would be the only major municipal leader given the chance to address activists from the main platform in Brighton.

He said the decision not to give a speaking slot to one of his northern counterparts suggested the party was "half-hearted" in its commitment to devolving power in England.

Mr Burnham, who ran against Mr Corbyn for the leadership in 2015 and who quit the shadow cabinet to stand as mayor in Manchester, also questioned the decision to back the scrapping of university tuition fees rather while not doing more for those in technical education.

His comments come amid criticism that Mr Corbyn, who himself represents a London seat, has surrounded himself in the shadow cabinet with MPs from the capital including John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry.

"It is not about me having a divine right to speak at conference. But it disappoints me that there is no prominent northern voice from one of the cities speaking to balance Sadiq Khan.

This is not a Jeremy criticism. This is institutional. The party is too London-centric. It isn't thinking enough about getting a strong message to voters in the North.

What troubles me a little is that we have got the mayor of London speaking but not the mayor of Liverpool city region, Steve Rotheram. Not the leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes.

Why haven't we got balance here? What does it say about the party's commitment to devolution? It could suggest that it's half-hearted. I would say to them 'Let's not do this again'."

– Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham

Mr Burnham, however, insisted that his criticisms extended beyond the Labour leader.

He said scrapping student tuition fees would help those young people who could look forward to a "more middle class lifestyle" after they graduated at the expense of those in apprenticeships or technical training.

"There is no doubt that people want to see real change when it comes to universities - but to make them completely free?

I just question is that the fairest way to spend money, to give it all to university students who may go on to a more middle class lifestyle and earnings?

I would say: what about 16 to 18 year-olds who lost their education maintenance allowance? What about those kids on the apprenticeship wage? What about technical education?

We need much better answers on those things. To be honest, I think those young people need as much, if not more, support."

– Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham