James Forsyth

What Milburn’s departure means

What Milburn's departure means
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Alan Milburn’s decision to step down at the next election is a sign of what will happen with the tightening up of the rules on MP’s outside interests; talented backbenchers who are attracted to business and see their party facing a spell in the wilderness will leave Parliament. Milburn says he is quitting so that he has “time to pursue challenges other than politics”. My rather unkind translation of this is that he wants to carry on with his various second jobs.

When the Cabinet debated Harriet Harman’s proposal to ban MPs from having second jobs, several Ministers were unhappy about. They argued that while it would cause problems for the Tories in the short term, the shoe would be on the other foot soon enough. One suspects that Milburn won’t be the last to leave for this reason.

In terms of the internal politics of the Labour party, I suspect that Milburn’s departure means little. In terms of frontline politics, the torch has passed to a new generation of Blairites—albeit a less talented one. Milburn’s main influence was philosophical and I’d be shocked if he didn’t carry on writing op-eds and pamphlets promoting his vision.

Do watch, though, to see who picks up his safe seat. That will be another indication of where Labour is heading.   

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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