Milburn vs. Milburn: Round III

In round three, Mark Watson fires a volley for the greater good and Paul Smith hits straight back with a large helping of  ego and delusion.

The best thing for the country is what’s required

The only thing you can be sure of in Westminster is that things are never going to be quite the same again. The Lib Dems are in power but sharing with Conservatives. Prescott is in the House of Lords, but following Frank Field and John Hutton’s acceptance of advisory positions to the current incumbents comes the completion of the triumvirate of ex-Labour ministers working in the current administration, with the addition of former cabinet minister Alan Milburn as social mobility tsar. 

Alan Milburn knows his social mobility bag; he has first hand experience. Gordon Brown thought so much of this arch-Blairites position that he appointed him to advise his government on the subject, although the subsequent binning of his proposals in file 13 confirmed to many the view that this appointment was simply a concession to the Blair wing of the party. 

Whilst criticising this appointment as a sell-out, amongst other things, many Labour figures are approaching the subject from a sectarian position and missing the point. It seems as though the underlying narrative of the detractors is that the well-being of the country comes second to the lines in the party sand.  Labour only want social mobility sorting if they are the ones to sort it out – so why didn’t we?  There is no doubt that Milburn is one of the premier social mobility minds, so why shouldn’t the country benefit from what he has to say, regardless of his allegiance.

Lord Prescott criticises Milburn in his Twitter feed, but Milburn’s reasons for taking the role would be no different from those on Prescott’s u-turn on taking a seat in The Lords. At least Milburn has never said that he wouldn’t.   

The new politicised electorate have no appetite for party political bickering and whilst many of us believe that a Con/Lib Dem government is not the best thing for the country, the best thing for the country is always what is required.

Mark Watson is an ‘idealistic Leftie, who recently returned to the only show in town.’

It’s not about the best thing: he’s being used to counter the image of smiling Thatcherism

It must be hard for ex-cabinet ministers.  Gone is the authority, gone is the power. People are no longer waiting on your every word or queuing to see you to provide you with their knowledge and seeking your opinion. Gone too is the adrenalin rush of Humphreys in the morning and Paxman in the evening.

So what next? Writing your memoirs is out; there are too many of them already sitting on the remaindered tables.  Instead, you could find ways to get your opinions back into the political debate.  You could do that within your party, but how many tedious meetings will that involve? You could get a job with a campaigning body but that means demeaning yourself with job applications and interviews, and the risk of humiliating rejection. You could join a think tank or even start one. Trouble is people are interested in talking to people with contacts in the new government not the old one, you really are yesterday’s man.

Hang on, perhaps you could join the government;  the one that defeated your party in the election.  Most members of the public like to see politicians working together, don’t they. If they all did that, it would be the one party state that you believed in during your youth.  Quick dial that number and move back to where the action is.

Some may consider you a traitor but they are just being tribal.  The power of your arguments will change the direction of government policy. They would not just use you as a shield for cuts in services, attacks on union rights and a raid on the benefits of the poorest. Surely your endorsement couldn’t be seen as a demonstration that the government represents the new politics, not smiling Thatcherism.

 Paul Smith blogs here.

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2 Responses to “Milburn vs. Milburn: Round III”

  1. Tom Miller says:

    This is all very good, I agree with your ‘country first’ appeal. My question then, I guess, is how Alan Milburn and John Hutton can ever be good for the country?

    No, really, if there was ever a case for a PLP disciplinary, this is it.

  2. Gex says:

    expell Milburn now
    they just want him to make public believe New Labour back Coalition

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