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What lies behind Blairite calls for “an avowedly pro-business agenda”?

MilburnAlan Milburn was once a Trotskyist, who co-ran a small left-wing bookshop in Newcastle, Days of Hope (aka Haze of Dope). Now he is better known as the New Labour politician and former Secretary of State for Health whom David Cameron appointed as his “social mobility Tsar”. He is also one of those Blairite  heavyweights who are occasionally wheeled out to deliver the line that those Blairites left within the shadow cabinet feel unable to deliver. Yesterday in the Financial Times, he called on Labour “to embrace an avowedly pro-business agenda and match it with a more overtly pro-business tone”.

Labour’s leadership needs “more than a repeat of John Smith’s famous prawn cocktail offensive”, he says, to overcome widespread business scepticism towards the party, and Ed Balls needs to go “further and faster” to rebuild bridges with business, to show Labour is on the side of wealth creators, including opposition to a 50p top rate of tax.

It doesn’t take much digging to reveal the interests behind Tom Milburn’s plea. He has come a long way from the Haze of Dope. His media and consultancy company, AM Strategy, made £1,357,131 in profits in the last two years. Among the companies he works for are venture capitalists, Bridgepoint Capital which has a big interest in the healthcare sector which it notes, with costs rising at 5% a year  and ageing populations, offers “significant opportunities” both from and “further growth in public sector outsourcing and private pay initiatives“.

These “opportunities” include, for example, the “dental market” which Bridgepoint says is currently worth about £7billion, of which 60% is “patient funded“. Fortunately for Bridgepoint (and Alan Milburn), it has recently acquired the UK’s largest provider of dental services, Oasis, worth £185million at acquisition last year.

Other Bridgepoint (and Milburn) interests in the healthcare market have included:

  • Alliance Medical Ltd, which provided MRI scanning services to the NHS. A contract worth £95million a year with the NHS was announced in 2004 when Milburn first worked for Bridgepoint shortly after he stopped being Health Secretary. The deal was announced by his long-standing friend and flatmate, John Hutton, who had been Minister for Health in his time and remained so, although it was later denounced by various newspapers including the Observer. One Labour MP asking questions about the scandal were warned off. Like Milburn, Hutton went on to be employed as an adviser by David Cameron – in his case with a brief to slash public sector pensions.
  • Renal care provider Diaverum which Bridgepoint says operates “in a sector with attractive long-term market dynamics where the number of patients requiring dialysis treatment is growing by 5-7% p.a due to ageing populations and increasing incidence of chronic kidney failure“. Lucky Diaverum. Alan Milburn is a director.
  • Care UK – acquired for £480million in 2010  and “a leading provider of health and social care services, working with local authorities and the UK’s National Health Service to provide a range of outsourced services including residential, community, specialist, primary and secondary healthcare“.
  • Mental health provider Ansel.
  • Tunstall, a provider to individuals and care homes of telecare systems (principally for use by the elderly and infirm).

Milburn’s healthcare interests don’t stop there, but also include:

  • Lloyds Pharmacy which reportedly pays him £30,000 a year and operates pharmacies primarily in community and health centre locations. He joined Lloyds in 2006.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers where he heads their health oversight board about which he says: “I’m delighted to be working with PwC in this new role. The health industry in the UK offers strong opportunities for growth in the wider economy and for PwC. My aim is to bring together a panel of industry experts to help catalyse change across the health sector and to help PwC grow its presence in the health market.
  • iWantGreatCare of which Milburn is Chairman. It says it “delivers a comprehensive range of patient experience solutions direct to NHS hospitals, primary care and community providers as well as independent healthcare providers in the UK and internationally.” In the Times, Milburn said “patients can be the smoke alarms of the NHS“, preventing disasters like that at Stafford. Readers will need no convincing that knowledge about the patient experience has an important role to play in improving healthcare but may be more alarmed by the idea that this should be instead of more regulation of healthcare providers.

Now, we all want British businesses to succeed in creating well-paid quality jobs. We need to regenerate industry and invest in a greener future. But do we need to take lectures from people who want to make a fast buck out of our NHS? We want a Labour government that uses the state to help businesses grow, not to help businesses rip off the state. Let’s pay no more attention to Mr Milburn and his ilk.


  1. PoundInYourPocket says:

    hopefuly with all these business interests he’ll have less time for poitics.

  2. Syzygy says:

    Wasn’t Milburn leaving politics to spend more time with his children?? Another Bliar profiteer.

  3. Robert says:

    He’s just another of those people who found a way of making a pile off the back of the sick disabled the poor and the unemployed.

    In years to come when people talk about Blair and Brown, Milburn will not even be mentioned he was a nobody and is still a nobody. he may have a few quid for people like this it’s never enough, he’ll die still trying to make it without enjoying it bit like Blair.

  4. John Reid says:

    Stager, why d’you say that he turned down. Peerage

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