BLAIR'S SURPRISE SHAKE-UP: It's Not Sex, It's Not Cash ..It's to Save My Family - ALAN MILBURN LAST NIGHT; EXCLUSIVE
Byline: PAUL GILFEATHER Whitehall Editor
ALAN Milburn made it plain last night that his relationship with partner Ruth would have been over if he had stayed in the Cabinet.
He told the Daily Mirror: "There's a lot c**p being said, but I can assure you there's no scandal behind it - nothing sexual or financial lurking behind the scenes.
"Ruth didn't give me an ultimatum as such but it was very clear to me from our discussions that our relationship would not last if I carried on as I was.
"And that was something that filled me with dread so I decided to do something about it."
Mr Milburn, 45, and hospital psychiatrist Dr Ruth Briel have been together 12 years. They have two sons Daniel, six, and Joe, 12 next week.
Mr Milburn's departure from his pounds 71,433-a-year post as Health Secretary was a huge shock - and turned the planned Government reshuffle by Tony Blair into a significant shake-up.
Blairite Mr Milburn had always been viewed as fiercely ambitious and was considered by many a potential Premier - the leading "stop Gordon Brown" candidate.
Mr Blair's response to his resignation letter was surprisingly cool, indicating the Prime Minister's unhappiness.
Last night Mr Milburn said he and his partner had talked about such a move for at least a year.
He said: "People just don't realise how much time is taken up by ministerial business and how much strain it puts on family life.
"I don't mean that as some sort of weak excuse, it's just a fact of modern Government."
Mr Milburn, MP for Darlington, added: "My boys don't care about politics, they just want to see more of their dad. And I want to see more of them.
"They don't really understand what has happened today and they don't really care. All that matters to them is that they will now be seeing more of their dad.
"That is the choice I made today for them and for Ruth, and I don't regret it, even though I am very sad to be giving up a job I found so exciting and interesting.
"You get one shot in life with kids. You get one chance to see them grow up. I have not been there and I want to be there."
Mr Milburn, made a junior health minister after Labour's 1997 election win and then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, lives with his family in a pounds 750,000 detached house in Stocksfield, Northumberland.
An earlier marriage to Barbara "Mo" O'Toole - who now represents Labour in the European Parliament - ended in 1990 after nine years. …