Andy Burnham has not dismissed suggestions he could mount a bid for the Labour leadership in the future, telling Sky News the party should “get in touch” if it were “ever to feel it needed me”.
He was speaking after winning re-election as Greater Manchester mayor, taking 69% of the vote with turnout just under 33%.
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Mr Burnham picked up 473,024 votes – well clear of the Conservatives’ Laura Evans on 113,753.
His performance in the role has sparked speculation he could attempt a third run at the Labour leadership in the future, having failed to secure the top job in 2010 and 2015.
Asked about this in an interview with Sky News, Mr Burnham did not dismiss the prospect out of hand.
“In the distant future, if the party were ever to feel it needed me, well I’m here and they should get in touch,” he said.
Mr Burnham stressed that his immediate focus was on Greater Manchester and noted that he would have to become an MP again to stand.
“I left Westminster politics. I’m not an MP,” he said.
“You have to be an MP to stand for the leader of the Labour Party and I’m not aware that the rules have changed.
“My focus is here.”
When it was put to him that his victory speech sounded like a leadership pitch, Mr Burnham responded: “Not at all.
“I’ve got the best job in the world in the best city region in the world.”
Mr Burnham said there had to be a “lot of soul searching” about Labour’s performance in this set of elections.
In a message to leader Sir Keir Starmer, he said the party “needs to change” and it “can’t just be cosmetic changes”.
“They have lost an emotional connection with parts of the country that is going to take a lot of work to get back.”
It comes hours after Steve Rotheram was re-elected as Liverpool City Region mayor and Labour gained the West of England mayoralty from the Conservatives.
The former MP held onto the role he was first elected to in 2017 to shore up Labour’s support on Merseyside, where the party have also retained the Liverpool city mayoralty with victory for Joanne Anderson.
Mr Rotherham enjoyed an overwhelming victory by securing 58.3% of the votes (198,726 votes).
Conservative challenger Jade Marsden secured 19.6% of the votes (66,702 votes), with the Green Party’s Gary Cargill getting 40,211 votes and the Liberal Democrats’ David Newman coming fourth with 35,049 votes.
After the result was declared, Mr Rotherham paid a “massive thank you to everybody who has put your faith in me to continue”.
He added on Twitter: “It’s a massive vote of confidence in the power of devolution and the work I’ve done so far.”
And he called on the government to now support further devolution of powers to metropolitan mayors.
Labour candidate Dan Norris beat Tory candidate Samuel Williams to become West of England mayor, registering 125,482 votes to his nearest challenger’s 86,815.
The victories in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and the West of England give Labour some bright spots in what have been a largely disappointing set of election results for Sir Keir .
In what was dubbed “Super Thursday”, around 48 million people were able to vote in elections this week across England, Wales and Scotland in a wide range of different contests.
But – aside from success in the Welsh parliament elections – there have so far been few highlights for Sir Keir just over a year into his leadership of Labour.
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Further disappointment for Labour could come if the Tories’ Andy Street is re-elected as West Midlands mayor.
That contest went to a second round after Mr Street secured just under the 50% of votes needed after first round votes were counted on Saturday.
The “Super Thursday” elections have seen the Conservatives enjoy further success in traditionally Labour areas in England – including at the Hartlepool by-election – to build upon their resounding general election victory in 2019 when Labour’s “red wall” turned blue in large parts.
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