It's been a long time since anyone has been able to call Alan Milburn a leading left winger. In the 80s, he was known in Newcastle as the leading light of many left wing and trade union causes. When speaking to others he used the term "Comrade" quite freely. I met him a couple of times when doing Tyne Tees TV local election results programmes in 1990 and 1991. He was candidate for the then Tory held constituency of Darlington. I was Lib Dem candidate for the then (and still) Tory held constituency of Hexham. A generation on and he has grown up into a more centrist politician, via a stint as a Blairite Cabinet member. It has been an interesting journey for him.
Given the febrile state of the Labour party and the hysterical way in which any association with the Lib Dems and the Coalition is pounced on by the "socialist" brethren as "betrayal" likely to lead to the death of all first born, Milburn has clearly taken a courageous decision. Interestingly, for the first time ever, I can admit to welcoming comments made by Sion Simon, former Birmingham Labour MP who said that cross party advice to governments is common in Europe and we shouldn't get hung up about it here in the UK.
It is good to know therefore that not all Labour members have taken leave of their senses and gone completely nuts about the Coalition. Not all are screaming and ranting "collaborator", "quisling" and "betrayal".
Given the posture adopted by the majority in Labour however that policies of the Coalition are, in their eyes, terrible, surely they should welcome the opportunity for one of their own to influence positively those policies for the benefit of the people Labour claim to represent.
My judgement is that the old politics of confrontation failed in the public's view, especially under Gordon Brown. Co-operation and working together are what people want. Labour going apoplectic with rage over one of their own deciding to advise the government on how to improve conditions and life chances for ordinary people leaves people baffled.
Labour's journey back to power will be long and hard and on it they will have to learn that they do not have all the answers to all the problems. Many solutions lie with other parties as well and cooperation is the best way forward to ensure the best outcomes. Labour has not yet learnt that and probably won't for quite some time to come. And frankly in the meantime, far from having solutions and policies themselves, they are offering nothing to address the big issues of the day.