Labour was damaged by infighting and egotism - Burnham

Andy Burnham talks to the BBC about in-fighting in the Labour party

Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has told the BBC infighting and plotting damaged the party - as a row simmers over Lord Mandelson's memoirs.

Mr Burnham said he could offer a "complete break" from "egotistical factionalism" at the top of Labour.

Lord Prescott also said infighting contributed to Labour's defeat.

It comes as ex-Brown aide Charlie Whelan hit back at comments made by Lord Mandelson about "destructive" allies of the former PM and chancellor.

'Unbridled contempt'

Mr Whelan - a former press secretary to Mr Brown - told the Sunday Telegraph: "Peter ran the worst general election campaign in Labour's history. Nobody knew what the message was at all. It was a disaster from beginning to end."

He added: "Peter [Mandelson] wasn't focused on the campaign at all. Clearly his only thoughts were for his book."

Start Quote

We need a complete break from all of that - we don't need more of the same”

End Quote Andy Burnham Labour leadership contender

Lord Mandelson's book, The Third Man, is due to be serialised from Monday. But in an interview with The Times, he said he and former prime ministers Tony Blair and Mr Brown had "killed each other" at the height of New Labour infighting.

"The unbridled contempt that some people around Gordon had for Tony and those who worked for him was very destructive," he said.

"They were constantly winding him up - partly because that's what they felt. Partly because that's what they thought he wanted to hear."

In his interview on the BBC's Politics Show, Mr Burnham - who is standing against David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Diane Abbott for the Labour leadership following Mr Brown's resignation - said he wanted to give a "complete rejection of the style in which we have run our party in the last 16 years".

'Brought into disrepute'

"There was far too much self-indulgent and egotistical factionalism and people spending their weekends at London dinner parties plotting the demise of other people in the Labour Party.

"Quite frankly I've never had a part of that and I don't want any part of that. The net effect of it all was it just made life harder on the doorstep for ordinary Labour Party members and activists up and down the country.

"We need a complete break from all of that - we don't need more of the same and I can bring the change that Labour needs in this next period."

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We lost the election when we started attacking each other internally about Brown and Blair”

End Quote Lord Prescott

He said he had been loyal to both Mr Blair and Mr Brown but had seen "at close quarters some of this egotistical infighting which quite frankly I believe damaged the Labour Party" and he said "brought us into real disrepute at times".

Of his fellow leadership candidates, David Miliband was often touted as a possible challenger to Gordon Brown, while Ed Balls and Ed Miliband were close aides of Mr Brown. Mr Burnham was widely seen as a supporter of Mr Blair but described himself as a "Blairite for Brown".

Last week Mr Balls denied a report suggesting his camp briefed against Mr Burnham, suggesting he was going to pull out of the race.

Mr Burnham told the BBC: "There was a story about me pulling out that I found something of a surprise given that the nominations on the Labour website will show you today I am in a pretty solid third place."

Party ballot

He said he did not know who was behind the briefing, but said the number of volunteers supporting his campaign had doubled to 1,100, he had 15 nominations from local Labour parties and 40 were working in his office, adding: "I'm building real momentum."

According to the Labour Party website, David Miliband currently has the most nominations overall from MPs, constituency Labour parties, trade unions and MEPs, his brother Ed is second and Mr Burnham third.

Party members, trade union members, MPs and MEPs will be balloted and the result announced on 25 September.

In a separate interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, former deputy PM Mr Prescott said: "We lost the election when we started attacking each other internally about Brown and Blair, now being reiterated in Peter's [Mandelson] book and then some of the people on the sides coming in and blaming somebody else. Can we forget all that?"

He also said that Mr Whelan's criticism was the sort of thing "which used to happen to Labour before and it did contribute to our defeat".

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