Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Any Other Business

Article excerpt

Byline: By Peter Young

With the General Election approaching, it's a hectic time for Labour's campaign supremo, Alan Milburn, but he managed to fit in a trip to St James' Park with his two young sons to watch Newcastle United beat Bolton Wanderers.

The former Health Secretary, who resigned in June 2003 to devote more time to his family only to be recalled to the Cabinet by Tony Blair in October to spearhead the election campaign, confessed: "I wish I could get to see Newcastle play more often."

Newcastle won 2-1 thanks to a second half goal from Kieron Dyer and Mr Milburn even suggested it could well be a metaphor for the campaign.

"The game started a bit flat but we won it well in the second half," he said.

Mr Milburn, who worked in Newcastle and North Tyneside before he became MP for Darlington, and lives in Northumberland with his partner Ruth Briel, admits he had mixed feelings about leaving the back benches.

"In terms of the quality of my life, being out of the Cabinet is far easier," he said. "Conversely, being back in means you are at the centre of things."

Though most Westminster folk reckon polling day will be May 5, Mr Milburn maintains the PM has not shared his thoughts about a possible date.

However, he warned against writing off the Conservatives. "This election is going to be a fight," he said.

Liberal Democrat executive member Greg Stone has decided not to lodge a complaint with the Standards Board for England against Labour councillors he suspects of leaking a confidential consultants' report on regeneration plans for Newcastle's Discovery Quarter.

The report is now in the public domain anyhow and Coun Stone said: "We need to move on. I don't intend to make a martyr out of anybody."

In all the frenzy over the coming General Election, the fact there are county council elections on May 5 has been largely ignored.

Battles are looming in Northumberland and County Durham and the Liberal Democrats, buoyed by recent successes, were in confident mood at their spring conference in Harrogate. They reckon they can pick up county council seats from Labour in Durham after taking control of Durham City Council in May 2003, and in Northumberland following the controversy over Labour's plans to close middle schools. …

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