Alan Milburn has quit as Health Minister for family reasons.Tom Happold’s report on Guardian Unlimited ends like this:
Reacting to the suggestion that political commentators would be looking for ulterior motives behind Mr Milburn’s decision, the MP replied: “I understand that and they are wrong. I understand that there will be motives suggested about this. There will be implications and there will be the wildest of conspiracy theories about this.”
Mr Milburn added: “But it comes down to a simple thing – a personal choice.”
Discussing his future, Mr Milburn said: “You get one shot in life with kids. You get one chance to see them grow up. I have not been there and I want to be there.”
Describing the kind of life politicians lead, Mr Milburn added: “I think it’s a crazy way of life and a mad way of life. People have different ways of dealing with it – but this was an intensely personal choice.”
Knowing our media and our political elite I am sure there will be speculation about the ‘real reasons’ . But I hope for once Milburn’s motives will be taken at face value. He was doing fine as a politician and he was trusted and highly-rated by Tony Blair. The reforms of the NHS may have tested his ability to carry the party with him but they have hardly begun. I don’t have the inside story on this but there seems no pressing political reason for Milburn to go.
As a father with a time-consuming career myself I know exactly what Milburn is talking about and I am sure some of you do to – this will be an interesting test of how far Britain has come in accepting the difficulties fathers face in balancing their family commitments with their careers.
It is easy to cynically mock the ‘spending more time with my family’ explanation, because so many politicians have used it as an excuse in the past. But there is really nothing wrong with spending more time with your family is there? If we want our politicians to be ‘in touch with ordinary people’ why should we expect them to sacrifice those ordinary, but valuable, family experiences, to the demanding world of politics?