Monday, 16 August 2010

Improving Social Mobility Must Come Before Tribal Point Scoring

I have already posted both here and on Platform 10 that the appointment of Alan Milburn as social mobility 'czar' is one to be welcomed.  Improving social mobility is one of the biggest challenges facing British society today and it is a good thing that somebody as talented and passionate about the subject as Milburn feels ready to  continue to contribute to the subject.

As Peter Bingle said in his excellent blog earlier on today:

"Politics was the loser when Alan Milburn stood down from the House of Commons at the last election. One of the few genuine stars of the New Labour Project, Alan was the most radical Health Secretary since Aneurin Bevan. 
A former member of the hard left, Alan had all the conviction and passion of a convert. He embraced the market in a way that no other Labour Cabinet Minister dared to do. In the end he was thwarted by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown and left the government ...
In the dying days of the last government, Alan Milburn was asked to chair a commission into social mobility. It is an issue about which he cares passionately. From a poor background himself he believes (and has said so publicly) that nowadays it would be almost impossible to achieve the social mobility which he has achieved himself.... The commission's recommendations were largely ignored by Gordon Brown to the intense irritation of its chairman ... I was therefore not surprised to learn that Alan had accepted an invitation from the PM to become the Social Mobility Czar. I suspect that his political instincts are much closer to those of this PM than the last one.
Alan is the latest in a long line of senior Labour figures to accept a role advising the coalition. They all deserve our thanks and support for putting country before party."

Like Alan Milburn, I come from a North Eastern working class background and share his passion about the importance improving life chances for people from low income backgrounds.

What followed the announcement was a number of Labour figures abusing Alan Milburn in very personal terms.  This was John Prescott's 'tweet' on the matter: "So after Field & Hutton, Milburn becomes the 3rd collaborator.  They collaborated to get Brown OUT.  Now collaborating to keep Cameron IN."

Now I'm a fan of John Prescott.  One of the reasons that I like John Prescott is that he came from a very humble background to be a great success in politics.  Maybe before throwing the word collaborator about, Lord Prescott should consider that what Alan Milburn is doing is channelling his passion to help more kids from humble beginnings realise their dreams and aspirations.

Andy Burnham also attacked Alan Milburn for his decision.

Maybe people on the left attacking Milburn should consider what is more important - the kind of tribal politics that turns so many people off or ensuring that the life chances of people from lower income backgrounds are improved.  Milburn clearly believes the latter.  Throwing insults about a man who is channelling his talents to helping improve social mobility seems pretty unedifying to me.

And then there was Iain Dale on the right.  He had a blog paraphrasing Martin Niemoller's remarkable poem 'First They Came' and suggesting that the job should have gone to a Tory.  First off, I reckon there are some pieces of poetry that shouldn't be used for partisan slagging and this is certainly one of them.  Secondly, Milburn is a highly talented individual, hugely respected and an expert in the field.  He understands the issues regarding social mobility and cares passionately about them.  He would be, for most people on both sides of the divide, one of the first names that come to mind when you ask who should head up this kind of work on social mobility.

This is simply too important an issue to be reduced to tribal posturing and party political point scoring.  The snipers may think that tribal purity is more important than helping improve social mobility.  They are wrong.  Thank goodness that Milburn has decided to put country and improving life chances of lower income people ahead of tribalism.

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