Monday 16 August 2010

Consorting with the enemy?

Alan Milburn has attracted his share of flak for agreeing to act as a social mobility adviser to the coalition. John Prescott has tweeted:
So after Field & Hutton, Milburn becomes the 3rd collaborator. They collaborated to get Brown OUT. Now collaborating to keep Cameron IN
There's a lively debate running on the Labour Uncut website too. And there were plenty of groans when John Hutton agreed to chair the pensions review and Frank Field a welfare review.

But the naysayers are wrong to complain. There is plenty of things to criticise the coalition about - Friday's utterly absurd abolition of the Audit Commission is just the latest example - but this is not one of them. Of course, there's a political calculation involved, just as there was when Labour gave roles to Tories like Chris Patten.

But this is not the same as luring Labour MPs into the Tory party as happened when Labour welcomed Tory MPs like Shaun Woodward, Peter Temple-Morris and Alan Howarth into the party. Why is there such a tribal outcry about people who keep their politics whilst doing a job that they see as in the national interest, drawing on their own past experience? Nobody argues that the Republican Robert Gates should not work for President Obama and few would disagree that the socialist Bernard Kouchner is an able French foreign minister, appointed by President Sarkozy (although his socialist colleagues have displayed their tribalist tendencies by expelling him from the party).

And by appointing them, there's also a recognition by the government that these are talented people with a contribution to make on issues of national importance, and a greater contribution than anyone in the two governing parties. That's something that has Tories like Stephen Glover and Iain Dale seething. With the coalition so schizophrenic in its assessment of the Labour years, that is a good thing.

And it is something that Labour should be happy to celebrate in opposition as a valuable counter to the all-too-successful demonisation of our very real achievements in government. If we did so, we might start to win back more independent-minded lost voters more quickly.

No comments: