"With his impeccable working class background and rags to riches story (single mum, council estate etc), he has the right credentials to look at issues such as social mobility. It wouldn't surprise me to see him leading a review of some kind in 2008, or how about a return to government? Watch this space."
For the record, this was what I wrote about the prospect of a Milburn comeback in my Newcastle Journal column a week ago today. I was writing in the context of the damning report published ten days ago which found that social mobility in Britain had ground to a halt.
"The upside for Labour is that there is a challenge here for Gordon Brown which, if he can grasp it, might just give his government the moral purpose it currently lacks, and a way out of its current political malaise.
There is also, if Mr Brown’s pride will permit, an old adversary who could help in that task – Darlington MP Alan Milburn, Labour’s Mr Upward Social Mobility himself in more ways than one.
The former health secretary famously grew up, the child of a single mother, on a council estate in a remote ex-mining town in County Durham.
Yet he himself has stated that he could not now imagine anyone from such a background as his reaching the Cabinet.
He is also, as far as this issue is concerned, Labour’s prophetic voice crying in the wilderness, having first warned about the looming problem as long ago as 2003.
Back then he wrote: “We should aim to reverse the slowing down of social mobility of recent decades. If these trends continue, Britain will be in danger of grinding socially to a halt.
"Getting Britain socially moving demands a new front in the battle for equal life chances. The most substantial inequalities are not simply between income groups but between those who own shares, pensions and housing and those who rely solely on wages or benefits.”
When Mr Milburn wrote those words, it was designed as a possible prospectus for the third term, a call to arms for Labour to be more, not less radical in its thinking
It didn’t work out that way. Although he did come back briefly to help run the election campaign, Mr Milburn along with most of his ideas ended up being marginalised.
Would Mr Brown now pick up the phone and ask Mr Milburn to join his Cabinet line-up? I don’t know, but it would certainly strengthen what is commonly seen as a rather lacklustre team.
Would Mr Milburn, for that matter, ever want to work again with Mr Brown? I don’t know the answer to that either.
I do know, however, that the last time I spoke to Mr Milburn, he was reading Giles Radice’s “Friends and Rivals,” a cautionary tale about three men whose rivalry prevented them working effectively together.
And as the Tories used to say in the days when they regularly won elections, surely now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party?"