There’s been a great deal of hoo-haa over former Labour minister Alan Milburn’s appointment this weekend as the coalition government’s mobility Tsar. John Prescott has branded him a collaborator and Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has gone on record to say that Milburn should reconsider his position.
Whilst I am disappointed with Frank Field’s and John Hutton’s appointments, I’ve come to a different conclusion with Milburn’s appointment.
The appointment represents an acknowledgement of the lack of talent on the Conservative and Lib Dem benches. David Cameron and Nick Clegg clearly do not have anyone within their own party ranks capable enough, or possessing the right qualities, to advise on social mobility.
It also signals a bitter blow to the think tank, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), founded by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, as the CSJ have been looking into the field of social mobility for years. A Labour politician being given the role disregards the work of the CSJ. With all the cuts coming from this government and the lack of investment in young people, his expertise can at least bring some progressive element into this coalition government, who have done nothing but damage the prospects of young people so far.
The reason I have time for Alan Milburn is his approach to internships. Many MPs exploit the system and give young people internships to avoid paying them a wage, when in fact they are carrying out roles with job descriptions to which there is a competitive recruitment process. For many young people, there is no other route to break into Westminster and no alternative but to take the intern route into politics and there are therefore in an exploitable position.
When in parliament, Alan Milburn was one of the few that paid a national minimum wage to ‘interns’ – all MPs should follow suit.