Milburn tells PM: Don't betray Blair

Former health secretary warns party against lurching to the left

Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister, has warned Gordon Brown not to abandon Blairite policies and urged him to change his personal style by replacing "monologue" with "dialogue".

Writing in The Independent today, Mr Milburn says "the old top-down approach to governance will no longer work". He believes the Prime Minister's focus on the economy has left a dangerous void on other domestic policy issues, and he predicts that Labour will lose the general election expected next year unless it develops a wide-ranging, forward-looking agenda. The former health secretary appeals to Mr Brown to reject pressure from some allies to respond to the financial crisis by lurching to the left.

He declares that properly regulated markets, capitalism and globalisation are good. In a jibe at what critics see as Mr Brown's control freakery, Mr Milburn calls on him to change the culture of Labour Party politics and to follow Barack Obama's lead by adopting an open, engaging politics "that favours dialogue over monologue".

The intervention of Mr Milburn, the MP for Darlington, will increase the pressure on the Prime Minister after a disastrous few weeks. He adds to the criticism levelled at Mr Brown by former ministers including David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, Stephen Byers and Frank Field, and the attack on the Government's "lamentable" communications by the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

Blairites are alarmed by a speech by Mr Brown on Tuesday in which he attacked the Conservative Party for supporting "market forces" to raise standards in schools. They fear that it signalled a retreat from the public service reforms championed by Tony Blair, and could leave the field clear for the Tory leader David Cameron to promise to complete them.

In his article, Mr Milburn argues that the challenges facing Labour can no longer be met by "a mix of extra resources and top-down reforms", saying citizens must be empowered and services made accountable to local communities – who could take over the running of children's centres, estates and parks.

Mr Milburn denies that the Blairite approach is redundant following the collapse of the banks, and believes "more, not less, New Labour" is needed. He fears the Government may throw out the baby with the bathwater by seeking more state control. "The left must avoid the trap of countering an argument about less state by making a case for more state," he writes. "The job of progressives is not to kill capitalism but to civilise it – by making it work in the public interest."

Last night, Mr Brown's allies admitted that the need to respond to the economic crisis had diverted attention from other issues, but insisted that the Prime Minister accepted the need to develop a wider policy agenda in order to win a fourth term in office. They strongly denied that he was moving away from Mr Blair's reforms.

Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader, rebuked former ministers such as Mr Milburn for criticising the Prime Minister, saying they risked wrecking Labour's general election prospects. She said they should stop being "political pundits" and added: "We don't want anybody who is part of Labour's team in Parliament giving people the impression we are anything other than completely focused on giving the help they need at this time."

Yesterday, Mr Brown endured an uncomfortable session of Prime Minister's Questions, in which he was ridiculed by Mr Cameron over Ms Blears's searing criticism in a Sunday newspaper article. The Tory leader, who renewed his call for an immediate general election, questioned why Ms Blears was still in the Cabinet.

Claiming that the Government was in "terminal decline", he suggested that Mr Brown was now "the issue" on the doorsteps and isolated within his own Cabinet. "You are the only one who thinks you are any good," he told the Prime Minister.

Mr Brown, noting that Mr Cameron did not mention policy issues in any of his six questions, told the Tory leader: "You are completely out of your depth when it comes to the big issues."

Later, the Prime Minister held a 30-minute private meeting with the actress Joanna Lumley, leader of the campaign to secure greater residence rights for Gurkha veterans – on which he suffered his first Commons defeat last week. Afterwards, Ms Lumley said she trusted Mr Brown to "do the right thing" and he would "come up with a new solution by the end of this month". But Downing Street insisted Mr Brown had made no commitment to speed up the Government's response, which is due by July.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, accused Mr Cameron of talking the British economy down by speaking about "an age of austerity" and warned that this could jeopardise the recovery. "This attempt to make us feel worse about ourselves may have an understandable electoral motivation. But its effect, if we are not careful, will be felt beyond politics," the peer said in a speech in London.

"If insecurity breeds economic hopelessness, we risk cutting ourselves off from the economic opportunities and growth markets the world economy offers us. Sapping our nation's will to succeed won't help us win in global markets."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all