LABOUR'S election campaign is not progressing well. Opinions vary on the reason for the stops and starts, the pledges added at the last minute, and the questionable posters, but the effectiveness of Alan Milburn as campaign co-ordinator is already being question. Mr Milburn was brought out of premature ministerial retirement for the job by the Prime Minister and initially was even touted as his possible successor in preference to Gordon Brown.

Mr Milburn has made some interesting speeches on the problems facing Labour at the coming election. For instance, about voters' apathy: “Voting and political interest have plummeted not because the British people are suddenly too weak-willed to make it to the ballot box, too weak-minded to understand the issues, or too weak-stomached to swallow the increasingly negative tone of political campaigning.” Good strong stuff? Unfortunately, however, the words were not Mr Milburn's. They came, with the exception of the substitution of Britain for America and ballot box for ballot booth, from a book The Next Deal by Andrei Cherny, a speechwriter for John Kerry. In another speech Mr Milburn rose to eloquent heights with visions of “a Britain run by the many and not the few; one ruled by the people, not an elite; one governed from the bottom up, not the top down.” Again, except for the substitution of Britain for America, the words were Mr Cherny's in a passage about John F Kennedy, although Mr Milburn sourced the inspiration as the pioneers who founded the Labour party one hundred years ago.

Alan Milburn is not the first politican to borow someone else's ideas, nor will he be the last. But it does seem strange that someone in his position is not capable of finding his own words to express what be believes.


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