Brown Turns to Former Rival Milburn to Kick Start a Commission on Social Mobility; ECONOMY
Byline: Daniel Bentley
ALAN MILBURN has made a surprise return to the political front line as an adviser to Gordon Brown.
The Prime Minister turned to the former Cabinet minister, a leading Blairite with whom he has repeatedly clashed, to head a new commission on social mobility.
Mr Milburn, pictured, will chair a panel of industry leaders charged with identifying and removing obstacles to people from disadvantaged backgrounds getting into the professions.
The initiative was described by the Tories as "class war" reminiscent of the Laura Spence affair - a reference to the Tyneside comprehensive schoolgirl who was rejected by Oxford University in 2000 to the dismay of Mr Brown.
Comparisons were drawn between Mr Milburn's latest appointment and the Cabinet return of Lord Mandelson in the October reshuffle.
Mr Milburn has a history of rivalry with Mr Brown in government and has voiced concern about Labour's strategy since Mr Brown's accession.
He has now been put in charge of drawing up recommendations on one of the Prime Minister's biggest priorities - widening the scope for people to achieve their potential.
Measures to promote social mobility are to be set out in a White Paper on Tuesday.
But ministers have identified limited access to the professions - such as law, medicine, the senior civil service, media, finance and the upper ranks of the Armed Forces - as a major obstacle.
Mr Milburn, MPfor Darlington, will chair a panel of representatives from the professions who will generate proposals for what they can do to widen access in their sphere.
It will also report recommendations to the Government when it produces a policy statement in June.
Issues to be considered include financial obstacles to access and progression, the role of work experience and internships, recruitment practices and what can be done to encourage new applicants for certain jobs.
In an article for The Sunday Times, Mr Milburn said he would be trying to ensure that "the best people, regardless of their backgrounds, have a fair crack of the whip".
"This is the right time for the Government to make its core purpose creating an upwardly mobile society again," he said.
"While Gordon Brown has rightly made the immediate priority getting the country through the global economic downturn, the Government needs to take action now to prepare Britain for the opportunities that will arise in the future. …