Behind the Blairite “business agenda”

Submitted by Matthew on 23 April, 2014 - 10:32

Alan 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.

[On 13 April] 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 Milburn’s plea.

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”.

These “opportunities” include, for example, the “dental market” which Bridgepoint says is currently worth about £7 billion, 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 £185 million.

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 £95 million 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.

• 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 £480 million 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 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...”

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.

• Taken with thanks from Left Futures

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