Thursday, August 07, 2008

Milburn for Chancellor? Absolute b****cks

Those were the words apparently used by Alan Milburn to describe Rosa Prince's now-infamous Telegraph story that he had been offered the Treasury in a David Miliband administration, should one come about.

Well, he would, wouldn't he? But you know, I think Alan is telling the truth on this one and for once I agree with Guido. This was not hubris on the part of an increasingly over-confident Blair/Miliband camp, it was a piece of black propaganda by the Brownites designed to discredit the Foreign Secretary in the eyes of the Milburn-hating party selectorate.

Indeed, so successful does it appear to have been in this regard that I wonder if that grandmaster of the dark arts Charlie Whelan is back at Gordon's side?

Andrew Sparrow on the Guardian Politics Blog said charitably that even the flakiest stories usually contain "some slither of truth," and I agree. The slither in this case is that Milburn will play a role in a Miliband government, if it happens - but not at the Treasury.

Although Milburn was briefly Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1998-99, figures and grasp of detail are not really his strong points. He is much more of a Blair than a Brown, a broad-brush man whose real political talents lie in blue-sky thinking and communicating a vision. That is the kind of skillset that is required for No 10, not No 11, which is one of the reasons I have previously advocated Milburn as a leadership contender.

My tip for the Treasury is either James Purnell or, more likely, John Hutton. As for Milburn, I can see him being offered a Cabinet Office cross-cutting role to "think the unthinkable," possibly looking at policies across the piece to kick-start social mobility or tackle inequality. Indeed, Brown should have offered him this last year in my view.

The irony is that, had "Gypsy Rosa" written that Milburn's old flatmate Hutton was going to be offered the Treasury in a Miliband government, it would have proved even more damaging to the would-be young pretender, given the Business and Enterprise Secretary's current lower-than-zero standing with the union brothers.

It might also have had the merit of being - no doubt inadvertently - accurate.

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1 comment:

Letters From A Tory said...

It's possible that Brown might bring him back into the fold as he is so painfully short of ideas, but him being Chancellor in a Miliband administration is based on too much outlandish speculation.