Frank Field, John Hutton and now Alan Milburn – the red tinges to the coalition
mix are like a Who’s Who of reforming Labour politicians. Milburn, we learn today, is to return to government as an
adviser to David Cameron on social mobility. It’s a role he should be accumstomed to, as he was tasked with writing a report on the issue under Brown. That time, his suggestions were buried by a
government which didn’t want to face up to the sorry facts. This time, you hope they meet with a more constructive response.
But why wasn’t a Conservative (or conservative) appointed? That’s the question which Iain Dale asks over at
his blog – and you can see his point. There are plenty of people on the right who could have stepped into the role, not least someone like Jill Kirby. Yet it doesn’t follow that
Milburn is a bad appointment. Here is someone who not only has the right instincts in a
range of areas, but who has also fought determinedly, from within government, to put them into practice. In the
forever war between the reformers and the roadblocks, his experiences and nouse could prove a useful weapon for the coalition.
Then there’s the little matter of internal LibCon relations. These appointments from the left, dealing with issues such as social mobility and poverty, will surely do something to sooth a few Lib
Dem worries, even if they provoke irritation elsewhere. But that’s the nature of coalition government: you win some, you lose some. And I’d say that Milburn’s return is a solid win overall.