Milburn vs. Milburn: Round I

In the first round of our Milburn vs. Milburn feature, Sam Hargreaves agrues that we should rejoice at having one of our boys on the inside, while Paul Cotterill hits back with his view that it’s just a Tory trick:

Who would you rather have in charge?

Alan Milburn’s appointment as social mobility tsar has been a surprise for those within the Labour party; however it should not be viewed as an unwelcome one.

Social mobility is an issue at the heart of the Labour movement; it has long been the goal of our party to reduce the gap between the richest and poorest members of our society. This goal is not one that is shared by the members of the current cabinet, as shown by the scrapping of the future jobs fund.

A study conducted by Milburn before he left parliament criticised industries that were inaccessible to those from a poorer background. He has shown a clear understanding of the problems we currently face in our society, by forcing coalition members to see these problems, a shift in policy may be achieved.

MPs who cross party lines can easily be criticised for giving the government a shield to defend their actions. However he isn’t the only former Labour minister who is consulting for the coalition. Frank Field and John Hutton are reviewing anti-poverty and public sector pension strategies respectively.  Members of the party must ask themselves who they would rather have in charge of these crucial reviews, an ex Labour minister or a Tory.

Before we criticise Milburn, Field or Hutton for their actions we must remember why the Labour party exists. As a party we seek government so we can improve the country and the society in which we live. While we’re in opposition we can still influence the new government to share these goals.

If a policy we want to achieve is it is still a victory for the Labour party. We must ensure our own pride and partisanship does not allow the coalition to bring further harm to the country as a whole.implemented by the coalition

Sam Hargreaves is the youth and student officer for Stratford-upon-Avon CLP.

 It’s just a Tory  trick

Andy Burnham, whose concept of ‘aspirational socialism’ is nearly but not quite as vacuous as Alan Milburn’s ‘social mobility’, is close to the mark when he describes Milburn’s decision to become the Tory/Lib government’s latest ‘tsar’ as “putting his ego and his own social mobility above the people he used to represent”. 

As Stefan Collini noted when Alan Milburn first attempted to peddle his half-baked social mobility message in “Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions” (Cabinet Office, July 2009): 

“The emphasis on ‘aspiration’ is one symptom of the abandonment of what have been, for the best part of a century, the goals of progressive politics, since, as an ideal, the ‘aspirational society’ expresses a corrosively individualist conception of life.” 

But at least Milburn’s first report was produced in the context of a Labour government which actually gave a monkey’s about the poor, understood the importance of public services, and had at least some feel for the basics of what makes society tick.  

His stuff may have been the value-free warblings of a new Labour project then on its last legs, but at least it did no active harm. 

Now Milburn wants to do the same under the aegis of Iain Duncan-Smith’s centre for social justice. This IDS who, just a couple of weeks ago, told us his vision of social mobility – insecurity of housing tenure and ‘sink estates’ forcibly abandoned by anyone fortunate enough to get themselves a job.  

Milburn wants to promote himself as a Field-like ‘thinker’, and is prepared to do so under a government committed to squeezing the pips of the poor.   

To promote his own special brand of intellectual bunk, he’s happy to do for the Tories exactly what the Lib Dems have signed up for – providing supposedly liberal cover for the vicious excesses of a rightwing regime. 

The Tories aren’t stupid.   

They don’t need Milburn for any real insights into ‘social mobility’; that stuff can be knocked together by any number of junior staffers in Conservative HQ.   

What they’re looking for is Milburn’s ‘Labour’ name to stick on the front of whatever’s produced.   

Sadly, Milburn’s personal vanity, and delusion that he has something special to offer, has blinded him to the reality of why the Tories are offering him this cushy number. 

Paul Cotterill is leader of the Labour group on West Lancashire Borough Council.  He blogs at The Bickerstaffe Record and at Though Cowards Flinch.

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