Peter Hoskin

Milburn Watch

Milburn Watch
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So what's going on?  As Matt blogged last night, and details in his cover piece today, Labour leadership plots are certainly a-brewing; most probably involving Charles Clarke.  While Dizzy has unearthed signs that the 2020 Vision project -  founded by Clarke and Alan Milburn back in the pre-Gordo era to, ahem, offer "direction" to the Labour party - may not be dead after all.  And now, stage right, we have Milburn advising against a wholesale return to the "policies of state intervention" in today's Independent:

"Meeting the challenges of the modern world calls for a different sort of state: one that empowers, not controls. Faced with the new challenges of global warming and global terror, of mass migration and community insecurity the old top down approach to governance will no longer work.

It is not just that the public have reached the limits of what they will pay in taxes, although they have. Nor is it just that in the next decade fiscal pressures will compel governments – whether of right or left – to be far clearer with their electorates which areas of state spending need to rise and which areas need to fall. But it is also that, just as the global credit crunch and its consequences have exposed the limits of untrammelled free markets, so the new problems politics must confront – how to improve health, beat crime, regenerate communities, safeguard the environment – simply cannot happen if we have to choose between either having an active state or having active citizens. It is not either/or that is needed. It is both."

Given Brown's statist creed, it's hard not to see this as some kind of dig at his premiership.  But, even if it's not, it will be worth keeping an eye on Milburn over the next few months.  He's someone unusually suited to the Age of Austerity; strongly in favour of public service reform, and far from reluctant to cut back on civil servants and bureaucrats.  And he's even managed sidle back into the inner circles of government, through his work on social mobility.  

Besides, Milburn is one of those people whose career and policy agenda was trampled upon by Chancellor Brown on his way to becoming Prime Minster.  You've got to wonder how hungry he and others are to drag our Dear Leader back down again.