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15 August 2010updated 05 Oct 2023 8:17am

Who gains from Milburn move?

After Hutton and Field, coalition comes for Alan Milburn.

By Jon Bernstein

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.

 

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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?

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