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Burnham launches Labour leader bid

Former health secretary Andy Burnham launched his bid for the Labour leadership with a pledge to create a "People's Party".

As he became the fifth candidate to declare, Mr Burnham said he would put an end to "stage managed" politics run by "elites".

The comments - in an article for the Daily Mirror - came hours after ex-children's secretary Ed Balls and left-winger John McDonnell confirmed that they would be contenders.

David Miliband and his brother Ed - the former foreign and energy secretaries - announced last week that they would be running.

Mr Burnham insisted he could be a unifying force for the party, suggesting that - unlike most of his rivals - he had never taken sides in the Blair-Brown infighting.

The Leigh MP said Labour had to open up to more people. "We must become a new kind of Party that involves and consults its members on a daily basis - truly a People's Party - and reduces the influence of small elites at the top," he insisted.

Earlier, Mr Balls, one of Gordon Brown's closest political allies, said the former leader had wished him luck but would not be supporting any candidate.

Launching his campaign at a Sure Start centre in Nottingham, Mr Balls conceded that Labour had failed to communicate its message properly to voters - especially on immigration.

He also dismissed suggestions that his slim parliamentary majority - he won Morley and Outwood by 1,101 - made him unsuitable to be party leader.

Mr Balls refused to join criticism of the timetable for the election - which gives hopefuls only until next Thursday to collect the required 33 nominations from MPs, but Mr McDonnell - who confirmed his bid at the annual conference of the Public and Commercial Services Union in Brighton - dismissed it as a "stitch up".

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