Greater Manchester mayor bid: Burnham says Westminster has failed the North

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Media captionAndy Burnham tells Labour activists that Greater Manchester could be a "beacon for social justice"

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham told Labour activists "Westminster has failed the North" as he launched his campaign to become the party's candidate for mayor of Greater Manchester.

The Leigh MP vowed to devote himself to the task of "rebalancing our country".

Mr Burnham said the mayoral job was "cabinet-level" and required cabinet-level experience.

In a speech in Salford he said Labour needed to "field its biggest hitters".

High-speed rail

The MP for Leigh for 15 years said Greater Manchester could be a "beacon of hope and social justice" leading the campaign for a "more equal England".

Powerful regional mayors are a key part of the government's devolution project under the "Northern Powerhouse" banner.

The first elections for the role, currently filled by interim mayor Tony Lloyd, will be held in 2017.

Mr Lloyd and another former Labour minister, Ivan Lewis, are also seeking Labour's nomination.

The leaders of the 10 councils that make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will form part of the new mayor's cabinet.

Mr Burnham set out his vision for the first fully-integrated National Health and Social Care Service in Greater Manchester.

Analysis by Arif Ansari, BBC North West Political Editor

Image caption The Leigh MP told activists in Salford he was prepared to leave Westminster to tackle the North-South divide

Andy Burnham is easily the most senior politician to enter the race so far. He is the local MP who would apparently prefer to serve as Greater Manchester Mayor than shadow Home Secretary.

Cynics would say it is because he has calculated Labour is not about to get into government.

But with extensive powers over housing, planning, health, transport and policing, Andy Burnham would become the most powerful local politician in the North of England. Rather like Sadiq Khan in London, he would actually be able to get things done.

It is also important to the credibility of the new role that it is attracting big names, ahead of the election next year.

But while Andy Burnham would have every chance of winning the public vote, this is the Labour Party selection. He has has already lost the party leadership twice and he's late to declare. Ivan Lewis the Bury South MP is already campaigning on issues around social justice.

While Tony Lloyd is established as the interim mayor and crucially has the support of major unions including Unite and Unison.

He said he would also ask "the birthplace of the industrial revolution to lead a revolution in technical education" and use the mayor's housing fund to buy out the "absent landlords", returning properties to the public housing stock.

He committed to prioritising major investment in high-speed rail East-West rail across the north.

Mr Burnham said: "We all know there is no social mobility without modern public transport. Patch and mend and an extra lane on the M62 is not good enough.

"We have put up with outdated, overcrowded rail services for too long."

'Northern Labour'

Mr Burnham said England was a very unequal country.

"Put bluntly, Westminster has failed the North. It has left us with an uneven share of resources, power and life chances. The London perspective on life dominates the political debate and does not do justice to the challenges that people here face," he said.

He warned activists not to "make the mistake of Scotland" by failing to "field its biggest hitters" which he warned would "leave an opportunity for others".

"We have a chance to develop our own distinctive brand of Northern Labour. Let's grab it with both hands," he said.

Concluding his rally cry at the Lowry he called on activists to back his vision.

"We can do it because it is what we have been and because it is who we are," he said. "It is time for the North to rise again. If anywhere can do it, it's here in Greater Manchester. We can be a beacon of social justice."

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