Andy Burnham makes Labour leadership plea in Ipswich and Colchester

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham speaks at Ipswich Town Hall.

Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham speaks at Ipswich Town Hall.

The one-time Labour leadership front-runner visited the region in a bid to bolster his campaign among party members.

The shadow health secretary spoke to about 150 party members at Ipswich Town Hall and in Colchester as his made a final bid to prevent left-winger Jeremy Corbyn from winning the party leadership.

He told member in Ipswich: “Labour has to be a party of government, not a party of protest. We have to be in a position to win again in 2020.”

Mr Burnham addressed criticism that only Mr Corbyn had produced a series of policies that could excite voters during the leadership campaign.

He said he did not think the Labour party of the last 10 years would have had the vision to create the NHS as the post-war Attlee government had done.

And he regretted that the party had rejected his proposals for an “NHS-style” policy of offering social care for everyone who needed it.

Mr Burnham repeated his calls for train operators to be nationalised franchise-by-franchise once a Labour government was elected. “Is there anyone here who believes that rail privatisation has worked?” He asked. No hands went up in the meeting.

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However he insisted that a Labour government had to pursue radical policies while retaining economic credibility and warned about what happened the last time the party lost two elections in a row.

“We were not believable as a party of government and we allowed Margaret Thatcher to push her way through Labour communities.”

Mr Burnham last visited Ipswich just days before the general election, speaking in support of Labour candidate David Ellesmere at the MayDay festival in Alexandra Park.

He promised to return regularly to the region if he is elected leader, saying that seats like Ipswich were vital for the party.

And he insisted that Labour did have much to offer those in work who are trying to improve their lives – a sector some felt were ignored by the party during the campaign, especially in marginal seats in the south of England.

He said: “We have to look at creating enough affordable homes, and bring trains back into public ownership so people can afford the fares.

“Labour has to be able to offer a real alternative to people in communities like this – these are the kind of seats we have to win to regain power in 2020 which has to be our aim.”