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Has Burnham gone public because he thinks that Miliband will demote him?

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-08-10 at 07.01.28Andy Burnham says in today's Guardian that Labour has until next spring to set out more policies, and urges the integration of social care into the NHS (which isn't the party's official view.)

Every interview by a senior politician should be met by the question "what did he mean by that?", rather in the manner of Metternich enquiring after the death of Talleyrand

Burnham knows well that Labour's lead in the polls has slid, that Ed Miliband is under pressure, that he doesn't like Shadow Cabinet Ministers freelancing...and that the implied criticism of Miliband will be unwelcome.

The Shadow Health Secretary is in the wrong job. I write that not because of any intrinsic weakness Burnham may have, but because it's nearly always a mistake to shadow a department you ran.

Jeremy Hunt has been able to target Burnham's record, especially in relation to mid-Staffs, and has managed the unprecedented achievement of putting Labour under pressure over an issue which they own - at least, in relation to the Conservatives.

Ed Balls wasn't Chancellor of the Exchequer, but faces a similar problem as Shadow Chancellor, given his closeness to Gordon Brown in government and standing as an former economic adviser to him.

As a leadership contender last time round, Burham is presumably too well entrenched for the Labour leader to sack, but a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle is coming, as both Rafael Behr and James Forsyth indicated yesterday.

The most reasonable way of reading the Shadow Health Secretary's interview is that he thinks he may be demoted in the shuffle, doesn't want to leave health, and is getting his excuses in early: "I had a wonderful health and social care scheme - but Ed simply wouldn't have it."