Peter Hoskin

Milburn withdraws the Blairite seal of approval

Milburn withdraws the Blairite seal of approval
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Alan Milburn's article for the Telegraph this morning is a rhetorical blitzkreig against the coalition and their NHS reforms. From its opening shot that "The Government health reforms are the biggest car crash in NHS history," to its closing call for Labour to "restake its claim to be the party of progressive, radical reform," it is searing stuff. And no-one is spared, least of all Andrew Lansley and his "foolish bout of policy-wonking". Such fierce language is unusual, even by the standards of cross-party rough 'n' tumble. What makes it extraordinary is that Milburn is employed by the government to work on their social mobility agenda. The coalition's last report on the matter even expanded and prolonged his role.

"Still," you say, "Milburn's a Labour man, so attacking non-Labour men is what he does." But this intervention will sting the coalition nonetheless. As Cameron's eager references to Tony Blair in yesterday's PMQs demonstrated, the Prime Minister is hungry for the sort of Blairite approval that Milburn denies him here. And then there's the fact that some Tories share the former Health Secretary's broad concerns about backtracking on reform. Sam Coates has an article in today's Times (£) about how Steve Hilton is being left increasingly frustrated by all the climbdowns and retreats. I shall leave CoffeeHousers with its closing paragraphs, to mull over on this sunless morning:

"The further delay to the public service reform White Paper will be a particular sore for Mr Hilton, whose obsession with the failings of civil servants has spilt out into repeated angry clashes with those around him. In revenge, Mr Hilton inserted a passage attacking civil servants into Mr Cameron’s spring conference speech. This has not made it any easier to get the Civil Service to help with his plans.

He has also aimed his ire at Europe, an even bigger roadblock to reform, with friends suggesting that he is beginning to advocate leaving the EU altogether.

Senior Tories now suggest that there is a '50-50 chance' of Mr Hilton walking out within six months, disillusioned with the realities of governing from Downing Street. But with his passion, his grand ambitions and his distaste for focus groups and polling, a Conservative Party rapidly falling out of love with the technocrats in Downing Street may find that they love him more than they realised."