Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Friday, 25 January 2008

Profile: Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham
Mr Burnham has been MP for Leigh in Greater Manchester since 2001
Andy Burnham, who has taken over as culture secretary, already has a long career of working for Labour behind him.

The 38-year-old Liverpudlian has been a member of the party since he was 14, when he says he was "radicalised" by the miner's strike.

He was a special adviser at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport during Tony Blair's first term in power, when Chris Smith was culture secretary.

Mr Burnham, a Cambridge graduate, has also been Tessa Jowell's research assistant.

And between 2003 and 2004, he was parliamentary private secretary to David Blunkett, who was home secretary at the time.

His most recent role, which he had taken up last June when Prime Minister Gordon Brown's first Cabinet was announced, was as the chief secretary at the Treasury, under Chancellor Alistair Darling.

This role saw him taking charge of the government's comprehensive spending review, which sets departmental priorities within Whitehall.

'Authentic voice'

Mr Burnham, a lifelong Everton fan and the son of a telephone engineer, was elected in 2001 as the MP for the safe Labour seat of Leigh in Greater Manchester.

In his maiden speech to the House of Commons, he said: "I aim to give the House an authentic voice from my home area in years to come."

The Leigh constituency is near his native Merseyside and Mr Burnham used his regional connections as a campaigning tool.

After four years as a backbencher, he was brought into the government in 2005 as the junior Home Office minister in charge of identity cards.

Jane Kennedy, Andy Burnham, Alistair Darling, Angela Eagle, Kitty Usher
Mr Burnham (second left) was most recently at the Treasury

A year later, he became health minister, taking decisions about the NHS, the largest single budget in Whitehall.

He was also considered to have made a seamless transition from supporting Mr Blair to backing Mr Brown, and was prominent in the "Blairites for Brown" faction last year.

In an article he co-authored before Mr Brown became prime minister, he urged Labour not to split along Blair/Brown lines.

He wrote: "Growing up in the 1980s wasn't a lot of fun if you cared about politics.

"The decade of Dallas, Dynasty and royal weddings was indelibly marked for Thatcher's children in politics today by the miners' strike, picket lines, dole queues, leaking schools, desperate hospitals and the extraordinary epithet that 'there is no such thing as society'.

"Yet cast in the background, like shadow puppets, was the spectacle of the Labour party tearing itself apart."

Football

Mr Burnham and James Purnell - his predecessor as culture secretary - used to be flatmates and played in the same football teams: Red Menace and its successor Demon Eyes.

Mr Burnham has campaigned against the commercialisation of the game, as well as for fans to be given a greater say in the way their clubs are run.

As administrator to the government's football taskforce, he was credited with securing the agreement in which Premier League clubs agreed to give 5% of their TV revenues to the grass-roots development of young players.

But Mr Burnham's rapid political rise has not been without its more unpleasant moments.

Last year, delegates at a health workers' conference heckled and booed him, following a below-inflation pay settlement.

In his new job as culture secretary, he has arts funding, the BBC's future and the 2012 London Olympics among the issues in his in-tray.

The sports and culture crowds might be a little more polite than the health workers, but Mr Burnham will be under no illusion that they will be any more forgiving.


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