Funny old world … I was just arriving at Wimbledon, trying to find a telly
that would be showing the Lions match, saying to my son that when we came here
last year we were with Alan Milburn … when in pings a text from Alan saying
he has told his local party he won’t be standing at the next election.
Politics being politics, the UK media being the UK media, there will be a few
conspiracy theories flying around, and lots of overblown interpretation, as
there was when he stepped down from the Cabinet.
Sometimes, when people say they are leaving a job to spend more time with the
family, they mean it. I know I did, and though I still get about a bit, and
pursue new interests as Alan will, I see more of my family than ever I did in
frontline politics, which is why I was at the tennis in the first place.
I always got on well with Alan. In part because of his family, and his
commitment to them, he always stayed in the real world. One of the few rows we
had was when I was trying to get him to do a Sunday TV interview at a difficult
time for the government. Though I was hacked off on one level that he wouldn’t
do it, and knew I would have to give up more of the weekend trying to cajole
someone else onto a tricky wicket, I rather respected the fact he said he had
promised his kids he would be home all day, and that was that.
We worked very closely during the last election campaign, which was a bit
tricky at times, but Alan never stopped being a real team player.
What is clear is that almost regardless of the overall outcome when the
election comes, there is going to be a lot of churn in Parliament in the run
The expenses scandal has already ensured some MPs will not be standing next time,
and there will be more. Even without that extraordinary situation, there are
always announcements of departures towards the end of a Parliament, and I think
there will be more than is usual.
So we are going to be looking at a lot of new faces on all sides.
That may be no bad thing. It may well take a new generation – including people
in their 20s and 30s – to rebuild politics after all the hits it has taken.
One of the reasons I supported Georgia Gould for the Labour candidature in
Erith and Thamesmead was precisely because it would send that signal.
Despite all the opprobrium heaped on politicians, plenty of people will want
to replace MPs who leave. Of course experience, both of politics and of other
aspects of life, will be important.
But a bit of youth could go a long