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'We must reconnect' Labour's faithful told

PUBLISHED: 15:40 04 August 2010 | UPDATED: 11:50 23 August 2010

LABOUR leadership candidate Andy Burnham visited on Monday as part of a tour of the country claiming the party lost power because they had become dangerously disconnected. He told activists he was on a mission to fight back against the Conservatives who

LABOUR leadership candidate Andy Burnham visited on Monday as part of a tour of the country claiming the party lost power because they had become "dangerously disconnected."

He told activists he was on a mission to fight back against the Conservatives who swamped the county at the general election, resulting in a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government.

The former Secretery of State for Health met about 40 Labour activists at the Veteran's Club, Rouge Lane, off Clarence Place, Gravesend, as the leadership race to replace former PM Gordon Brown picks up.

He said: "We need to make very clear statements to win back the trust of people who voted for us in 1997.

"My philosophy is aspirational socialism, to make this country fairer in terms of wealth, health and life chances."

He added: "We became dangerously disconnected from working people and we have a huge job to regain their trust."

Labour, he said, needed to reconnect with working people and lashed back at claims by the coalition that there is no alternative to its policies. During the two-hour visit he told how he was "hugely proud" of what Labour did while in power with the NHS, crime, and the way the recession was tackled.

But despite his confidence he admitted the party went wrong with its style saying it was run top-down, it became elitist and split by different factions.

He said: "We also gave the impression we were in thrall to big business and our problems came home to roost in the recession. That was not for me. The party has got to change - I don't believe we can have more of the same. We have got to rethink from the bottom up. I would bring real change."

Liverpool-born Mr Burnham, 40, son of a telephone engineer and a receptionist who went to a comprehensive school, said he would end unpaid internship work - where youngsters work for nothing hoping for a job. He also said he would push for more comprehensive education and hit banks with bigger taxes.

Mr Burnham added: "I'm in to win it and I believe I can - what divides me from the others candidates is that I'm a Labour man through and through so I would forever be loyal to the party. But I want to be the leader because I've got a very clear idea of how Labour needs to change and re-connect with ordinary working people.

"The first thing to do is to set out a clear and principled alternative to the path on which the ConDems have placed us.

"The first job would be to say there is an alternative to the deep cuts they're about to publish.

"Cuts on the scale being spoken of - 40 per cent cuts to councils - would be public service vandalism on a grand scale.

"It is an ideological attack. It will attack hopes of young people and make our society more unequal."

Other contenders for the leadership include brothers David and Ed Miliband and Diane Abbott. Leadership ballot papers go out on September 1 and result will be announced at the party's conference on September 25.

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