Andy Burnham has given Keir Starmer his backing and denied he was laying the groundwork for a leadership bid after reports suggested allies of the Greater Manchester mayor had given the Labour leader 12 months to turn his party’s electoral fortunes around.
Mr Burnham has faced criticism from figures within the party amid accusations that he has been “on manoeuvres” in case a leadership race should emerge.
But asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show whether he supported the statement “Keir Starmer is doing a good job and I, under no circumstances, am going after his job”, Mr Burnham replied: “I will agree with that.”
The former health secretary also denied reports in a Sunday newspaper that his team had started the clock on a leadership bid, with Sir Keir apparently given a year to prove he can beat the Tories at the next general election.
The Mail on Sunday claimed Sir Keir was under pressure to go “three or four points” ahead of Boris Johnson by this time next year.
Responding to those claims, Mr Burnham said: “Anyone who calls themselves an ally of mine and is saying that isn’t an ally of mine because that is patently untrue.
“I have never said that to anybody, in fact I have committed to serve a full second term as mayor of Greater Manchester.
“And actually, if you look back at what I said in Brighton last week, I made very strongly supportive statements about Keir.
“I think Keir’s speech gave us a real alternative to the prime minister.”
Mr Burnham has previously insisted that he was committed to serving a full, second term as mayor until May 2024 before any return to Westminster.
Labour has been stubbornly trailing the Conservatives in recent opinion polls, and notably failed to secure a bounce following the party’s conference.
An Opinium poll for The Observer carried outfrom 29 September to 1 October put the Conservatives on 39 per cent, with Labour on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 8 per cent.
Last week Mr Burnham took a swipe at Sir Keir for focusing on internal battles rather than taking the fight to the Conservatives, saying he was “impatient” to hear a “convincing vision” from Labour about how it would improve the lives of people in the north.