Labour hopeful Burnham courts business with claim he loves entrepreneurs

The Shadow Health Secretary, who is seen as the frontrunner in the race, will pledge: ‘In my Labour Party, the entrepreneur will be as much our hero as the nurse.’

He will say Labour should not have been running a deficit before the financial crisis hit, and will promise that as prime minister he would eliminate the deficit if the Tories fail.

Burnham, who is seen as a frontrunner in Labour’s leadership race, is seeking to position himself as the ‘champion’ of wealth creation and claims he will eliminate the deficit if the Tories fail

But his admission that the party made a mistake is sure to raise eyebrows – Burnham was Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2007 and 2008, when the crisis hit.

Burnham’s campaign is suffering because of the impression that he is favoured by the unions – an accusation that dogged Ed Miliband’s failed leadership – and surprising support for Liz Kendall

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the hard-left Unite union, has said Mr Burnham is the candidate who ‘impresses’ him most.

Speaking to an audience of business leaders at international auditors Ernst & Young in central London, he sought to address Labour’s reputation on economic competence and commit to building the ‘broadest possible alliance for change’.

Burnham said that the party’s appeal was too narrow, adding: ‘It worries me that, in some people’s eyes, Labour has become associated with giving people who don’t want to help themselves an easy ride. That must change before we can win again.’

On the deficit, he said: ‘If we are to win back trust we have to start by admitting that we should not have been running a significant deficit in the years before the crash.

‘We can’t go into the next election, as we did into the last, with business and the public unclear on how Labour will balance the books, or when we will do so.’

And he addicted that Labour ‘got it wrong on business’ because the party ‘simply didn’t say enough that we value what you do – creating jobs and wealth’. Addressing claims he is the union candidate, Burnham concluded the speech by saying: ‘I am not someone who is factional but can bring people together.’