Everton FC supporter Andy Burnham has won the nomination contest to become the Labour Party candidate in next year's Greater Manchester Mayor election, gaining 3,792 votes to beat current interim GM Mayor Tony Lloyd (2,163 votes) and Ivan Lewis (1,472 votes).
Andy Burnham was supported by Worsley and Eccles South MP Barbara Keeley, although Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long Bailey, Salford Mayor Paul Dennett and most of the Salford Labour Party backed Tony Lloyd. This afternoon, former Salford Council Leader, John Merry, tweeted his congratulations.
Tony Lloyd was heavily criticised in Salford and beyond for both his handling of the Barton Moss anti-fracking protests as Greater Manchester Police Commissioner, and for the undemocratic way that devolution was imposed on Greater Manchester without a referendum.
Andy Burnham, on the other hand, criticised the "Swiss cheese" NHS that could result from devolution, and came out against fracking during his campaign, telling the Salford Star, "My position would be to recommend a Greater Manchester-wide presumption of opposition to fracking unless and until the evidence changes. I have seen how states in the US such as New York have taken a stance against fracking and I think Greater Manchester should do the same.
"As Mayor, my focus would be on building the jobs of the future rather than the past" he added "Fracking for fossil fuels seems to me to belong to the last century, not this one, and does not produce the quality jobs in the numbers that some have claimed. Instead, I want a Greater Manchester that is building the future and leading the way on renewable energy. That is where our focus should lie."
This afternoon, Pete Abel from Manchester Friends of the Earth broadly welcomed Burnham's selection...
"We need urgent action from our regional leaders to slash greenhouse gas emissions and clean up our badly polluted air" he explained "Andy Burnham and candidates for Greater Manchester Mayor from all parties must commit to policies for a low carbon, healthy and environmentally-just region - such as a home retrofit scheme, Clean Air Zones and going frack-free.
"We welcome the commitment Andy Burnham made of a presumption of opposition to fracking during the Labour candidacy contest, and call on all candidates to adopt a frack-free position and support for a thriving renewable energy industry in Greater Manchester" he added "The Greater Manchester Mayor will have to implement solutions to meet many social and environmental challenges. These include rising transport and energy costs, traffic congestion, ill health and rising obesity levels, poor air quality and the need to drastically reduce CO2 emissions."
North West UNISON also welcomed the selection...
"Andy is undoubtedly an excellent candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester and we will be whole-heartedly supporting his election campaign" said UNISON North West Labour Link Officer, Lynne Morris "It is great for Greater Manchester that the mayoral role has attracted a candidate of Andy's calibre and experience.
"UNISON has a long-standing positive working relationship with Andy Burnham" she added "When he held the Health portfolio for Labour, Andy was always keen to hear about, and learn from, the experiences of our members delivering services in the NHS. UNISON will work with Andy as Mayor to ensure that the voices of public service workers across Greater Manchester are heard. We're looking forward to continuing our close working relationship with Andy as we support his campaign to become the city-region's first elected mayor."
Speaking on his nomination this morning, Andy Burnham talked about his focus being on "fighting inequality between Greater Manchester and the rest of the country, and within Greater Manchester..it is the defining mission of our times..."
The other Greater Manchester political parties have yet to announce their candidates...
* Main photo shows Andy Burnham winning the cup for Labour MPs against the press at Salford City FC's Moor Lane in 2012. Photo by Andrew Goudie