Sunday, 3 July 2011

Milburn, Hutton and the rest. How's the lobbying going?

It is not surprising that people have little regard for politicians- a feeling magnified by the news that Alan Milburn’s recent comments criticising the lack of zeal in the NHS reforms neglecting to mention his capacity an adviser and lobbyist for a private health concern. Milburn joins other former Labour Cabinet Ministers such as John Hutton who have taken advisor positions within the new coalition Government. In truth Blair was equally willing to embrace Tories into the New Labour camp. Shortly after the 97 General election David Mellor was invited to take part in a commission on football. This lead to a yelp of outrage, I recall, from a Cheddleton Councillor Malcolm Ward who disapproved. The dog might have barked but in this example the caravan rumbled on.

It is the sense in my mind that politics and politician are inter changeable and that do not have a belief system or a sense of ideology. A good example is shown by Lord Freud who ceased being an adviser on Welfare Reform under Labour and became advisor on Welfare Reform for the Tories two years ago. However, my detestation of this type of action is probably heightened by a loathing I have for some of the characters involved and how far they have moved politically.

I have no time for Hutton since I came across him in the early 90s and even then his main desire seemed to be anything that furthered his own career. I recall the blog of the Welsh Labour MP Paul Flynn
"I have criticised John Hutton as a shallow politician who has never been accused of having an original thought. He has trained himself to be a Blair clone. He dressed like Blair and abided by the Ten Commandments of Blairism. He even started to imitate the way that Tony Blair speaks, starting every other sentence with 'Look!’ In all his many jobs he has parroted the usually bad ideas that lobbyists have crammed into his head"

Milburn has also come a long way from a Trotskyist past and running a left wing book shop in the North East " Days of Hope" in the late 70s renamed by locals as Haze of Dope. He joined the Labour Party in 1983 and underwent a rapid trajectory into Parliament and eventually became the Health Secretary. In Government he was regarded as an arch Blairite.

While in 2007 as Secretary of State for Health Milburn stated

"We plan to remove the Secretary of State's powers of direction over NHS Foundation Trusts. Instead of being line managed by the Department of Health, they will be held to account through agreements and cash for performance contracts... The expectation must be that the greater freedoms that NHS Foundation Trusts will enjoy will help them exceeding national performance targets but that will be a matter for local not national negotiation. Those that perform well will benefit from the system of payment by results and patient choice that we announced in Delivering the NHS Plan."

Milburn is currently on the advisory board of Bridgeport Capital. He appears to have joined them in January 2007. Bridgepoint is a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health care firms moving into the NHS.

Milburn, Hutton, Hewitt, Hoon, Flint, Smith, Blears and Byers! They all seemed appalling and in the case of Hewitt, Hoon and Byers foolishly caught out in a lobbyist scam pulled by a TV programme in the weeks before the election
Caroline Flint seems to be a particular example of a half-wit who has been raised beyond the level of her competence. There was her complaint that she was not being treated seriously when she flaunted herself for a national newspaper. Then her ineptitude at carrying briefing notes open to view and showing that "we know that the government are predicting "sizeable falls in (house) prices later this year - at best down 5-10% year-on year", remember that the next time a Labour minister claims prices are just steadying and bear this in mind when the government try to increase the shared ownership scheme - would you want shared ownership of a depreciating asset?

I would say that the quality of cabinet minister in the Labour Government was on the whole very poor and does stand comparison with the Harold Wilson cabinets of the 1960s and 70s.

The first Wilson Cabinet of 1964 contained more first class Oxbridge degrees than any other cabinet prior to that date. Wilson himself, Crossman, Healey, Jenkins, Crosland. Other members of the Cabinet who had solid experience in the Trade Union Movement such as Frank Cousin’s Jim Callaghan and the mercurial Deputy Leader of the Labour Party George Brown. Later of course Castle, Judith Hart, Michael Foot, Peter Shore, Tony Benn, Shirley Williams and Roy Hattersley.

Now Milburn, Hutton and Frank Field have joined in the big tent of coalition government. I wondered say in 1984 what Dennis Healey might have responded if invited by the Thatcher Government in the admittedly highly unlikely event of chairing a Commission on Social Inequality?

I suggest the response would have pithy and salty