The name Andrew Murray Burnham might not mean much to you from the outset. But he’s been in politics for over 25 years. Born in Liverpool in 1970, he was educated at a comprehensive and graduated with an English degree from Cambridge in 1991. He’s also been a card-wielding member of the Labour Party since 1985.
Burnham was elected Labour MP for Leigh in Greater Manchester in 2001. The then Prime Minister Tony Blair saw promising things in him and he was given a job in 2005 as an under secretary. His successor Gordon Brown put him in the cabinet just two years later, and he was spoken about as a future Labour leader.
Of course, that never happened. Labour went into opposition following the 2010 general election and have remained there since. In 2017, Burnham was duly elected Mayor of Greater Manchester and remains a popular figure in his city – a showdown against the Westminster government last year played a role in him winning reelection in May.
And one figure who was keen to see Burnham back in office was Sacha Lord. In 2018, Burnham hired him to be his Night Time Economy Adviser – one of the things he promised during his election campaign was to boost Manchester’s night life, so the reasons why he was snapped up make sense.
What isn’t so clear is how Lord was appointed. The job didn’t previously exist, so to the best of my knowledge, it was never formally advertised. He also doesn’t get a salary for the post – unlike his much maligned London counterpart Amy Lamé, who’s on £84,832 per year.
Not that this will bother Lord, of course – a source close to him confirms he’s a millionaire and gets quite shy when the topic of money is brought up. Other questions are even less easy to find answers to – queries to the Mayor’s office in Greater Manchester have drawn no response.
How many hours per week does Lord devote to this role? What powers does the position give him? How often does he meet up with boss Andy Burnham? And what happens if an issue ever arises where Lord’s business activities at Warehouse Project and elsewhere could conflict with his role as an adviser?
For the record, there is no suggestion here that Lord has used his position as Night Time Economy Adviser to benefit his business interests. Indeed, the truth is sometimes very far from it. Lord encourages businesses across Greater Manchester to sign up to the Good Employment Charter – which promises higher pay, more support for staff and transparency on tipping. One can only imagine this has cost his own businesses more money over the years.
But questions must increasingly be asked about Lord’s many public pronouncements on recent issues. How much notice of Lord’s statements on social media does Burnham take? This is just one of the many questions that the mayoral office in Manchester refuses to answer.
What does he think, for example, of Lord’s statement this week that doctors needed to apologise to the nation for affecting their mental health? Faced with criticism for his incendiary statement, he his 125,000 Twitter followers he was referring to a body called Independent SAGE and repeated his false claim that they advocated “permanent lockdown”, instead of making an apology for his sinister words.
Lord was, of course, playing to the gallery. He knows that many of his followers are rabid anti-vaxxers. Whilst he knows he can’t say much to them directly, given his roles in the Night Time Industries Association, his own business interests and his role for Andy Burnham, he can occasionally give them something to chew over. It’s highly irresponsible behaviour and it’s time he was called out for it by a larger audience.
And in particular, it’s time his boss reminded him that being an advisor means he has to be more careful with his words…