Who gains from Milburn move?

After Hutton and Field, coalition comes for Alan Milburn.

So, Alan Milburn may follow Frank Field and John Hutton and work with David Cameron and Nick Clegg's coalition government.

The Sunday Telegraph reports this morning that Milburn will be offered the role of "social mobility tsar", with a remit to examine ways of boosting the chances of underprivileged children. The announcement may be made as early as Wednesday, the paper says.

Last year Milburn was asked to do a similar job for Gordon Brown, but his recommendations were not used by the outgoing government. Milburn has yet to talk about this latest approach.

 

 

 

Policy-wise, Milburn has something to offer, but politically this feels rather toxic. According to the Sunday Telegraph report:

Many will see it as a way of shoring up the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader who is facing internal trouble in his own party over the severe spending cuts he has backed.

The appointment further highlights tensions in the coalition as the Lib Dems push for more left-wing policies.

On the right, Iain Dale for one is not happy:

First they came for Frank Field. They appointed him "Poverty Czar". I didn't speak up

Then they came for Will Hutton. They appointed him "Work Czar". I didn't speak up.

Then they came for John Hutton. They appointed him "Pensions Czar". I didn't speak up.

Today they came for Alan Milburn. They are about to appoint him "Social Mobility Czar".

Now, I'm going to speak up.

One day they might actually appoint a Conservative. But I'm not holding my breath.

Because by then, it might be a bit late.

Meanwhile, John Prescott has repeated his "collaborators" line that he used when Hutton and Field accepted coalition approaches to work together earlier in the summer. He tweeted:

So after Field & Hutton, Milburn becomes the 3rd collaborator. They collaborated to get Brown OUT. Now collaborating to keep Cameron IN

So, who gains from this move? Cameron may feel he is offering some much-needed support to his deputy, but at what cost? This appointment will surely antagonise the right, which might ask, as Dale does above, whether there isn't the talent "in-house" to do the job.

Indeed, isn't the much-vaunted Iain Duncan Smith able to answer these questions on mobility himself; isn't that what he has spent much of his post-leadership political life doing?

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.