Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

Could ex-Minister Alan Milburn be a possible candidate to lead the proposed North East Assembly if it ever gets off the ground?

There are rumours at Westminster that the Darlington Labour MP who lives in Northumberland and has strong connections with Newcastle may be interested in the job.

Mr Milburn, 45, and his partner Ruth Briel have two young sons and he left his high profile job as Health Secretary in Tony Blair's Government to devote more time to his family.

Mr Blair tried to talk him out of quitting by suggesting he move his family to London but Mr Milburn told the Prime Minister: "I don't want to live in London. I love the North East, it's my home, and it's a brilliant place to bring up kids. If it's a choice between London and the North East, it's no choice."

People will be asked to vote in a referendum next year on whether they want an elected North East Assembly and if they say yes it could be set up in 2006.

So far, Gateshead East & Washington West Labour MP Joyce Quin, who has already announced her plan to stand down from Parliament at the next general election, is the favourite to lead any assembly.

Mr Milburn couldn't be contacted for his comments on the speculation.

NEWCASTLE`S Deputy Labour leader Keith Taylor has angered his Lib Dem opponents after branding them a laughing stock following a spat in the council chamber.

Coun Taylor said the Lib Dems failed to deliver a proposed amendment to Labour's best value performance plan setting out new targets and monitoring procedures. "When the time came they were still scurrying around unstapling bits of paper," he said. "I've never seen such a shambles in the council chamber. They were clearly trying to gain some political kudos but the whole thing backfired on them. It's no wonder some Lib Dems were left squirming in their seats with embarrassment."

Lib Dem chairman, Coun Nick Cott, said: "I am very disappointed Keith Taylor is taking this line. …

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