Mayor Andy Burnham slams Tories for ‘playing to culture wars’ and calls for general election

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has slammed the Conservative party for “playing to culture war issues”, and has called for a general election.

The race for leadership of the Conservative party, and to become Britain’s next prime minister, was whittled down to two candidates this week – Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Both Truss and Sunak have made targeting trans rights part of their campaign platforms, and Burnham hit out at their use of “culture war issues” to win votes.

Discussing the Tory leadership race with Sky News’ Kay Burley, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “To me, this feels like a party that wants to go into opposition.

“It feels as though it’s in its comfort zone, playing to the culture war issues but not actually addressing the things that are affecting people up and down the country.

“Your viewers, Kay, this morning, who are worrying about their finances, who are worrying about the position of the NHS. This part is not dealing with those issues. It is in its own little world, talking to itself. And it feels to me as if it’s a party heading into opposition.”


Andy Burnham said levelling up will be ‘dead in the water’, and called for a general election

Andy Burnham hit out at Tory promises to cut taxes, and the impact this will have on the government’s levelling up agenda – while Truss has promised to immediately cut taxes if elected, Sunak has promised to do the same next year.

“If I look at the policies of all of them, levelling up will be dead in the water at the end of this Tory leadership campaign because they are all talking about major tax cuts,” said Burnham.

“You can’t put that forward and then be serious about levelling up the country, and levelling up the North of England.

“I would say, if that is where we end up at the end of this leadership election, there has to be a general election. Because that is a major change from the manifesto on which all of these people were elected in 2019.”

But a Truss or Sunak leadership won’t just be bleak for the economy, it is also set to make life worse for LGBTQ+ folk. 

Truss’ anti-trans record is clearer than Sunak’s – as Minister for Women and Equalities she declared a “war on woke”, scrapped Gender Recognition Act reforms, and oversaw the collapse of a comprehensive ban on conversion therapy.

While Sunak might seem like the better option at first glance, he has also insisted that “biology is important, is fundamental” when it comes to trans people accessing toilets and playing sports, and has promised to reverse “recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language”.

Whoever wins the race, it’s clear that both candidates are willing to weaponise LGBTQ+ rights in order to get ahead.