Theresa May is desperate for us to believe her lie that Alan Milburn’s resignation from the social mobility commission is due to “sour grapes” after he was told a new chairperson would be appointed by an open application process.
This means the former Labour MP’s chairmanship of the commission has been terminated, after his term in that position ran out in July.
But, if Mr Milburn is quitting the commission because he’s upset about losing the top job, why is former Tory Education Secretary Gillian Shephard quitting as well?
According to the Guardian report quoted below, “It is understood that Shephard, former Tory education secretary and deputy chair of the commission, will also resign. She is said by friends to be ‘absolutely livid’ with the way in which the commission has been treated.”
And what way would that be? Perhaps the following extract from Mr Milburn’s own letter to Mrs May provides some illumination: “I do not doubt your personal belief in social justice, but I see little evidence of that being translated into meaningful action.”
In other words: The social mobility commission was a ‘dummy’ organisation, set up to provide the illusion that the Conservatives were doing something positive, when in fact they weren’t.
Look at the examples the government spokesperson put forward to show the Tories have done something: they increased the national living wage (but not enough), cut income tax for the lowest paid (while the cost of living increased by more than the saving) and doubled free childcare (but there are huge issues around its provision).
Social media commentators have drawn the obvious conclusions:
Last night, @Theresa_May's social mobility adviser and his entire team quit, stating that the Prime Minister is unable to build a "fairer Britain".
In her first speech as PM she promised to tackle "burning injustices", but her record since is one of failure and unfairness. pic.twitter.com/uyQyG7Ha8F
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) December 3, 2017
At last, integrity wins. Alan Milburn & rest of social mobility commission quit – absolutely damning for May. https://t.co/D0WSNq0TKX
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) December 2, 2017
BREAKING: Alan Milburn and entire social mobility commission resign saying May has “zero” chance of achieving her goal of a country fair for everyone
— Tim Shipman (@ShippersUnbound) December 2, 2017
Theresa May's entire Social Mobility Commission have quit on her, stating she has zero chance of creating the country that works everyone that she promised. Another damning nail in the Tory coffin. #Marr #Peston
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) December 3, 2017
Meanwhile, the resignations have come at a time when Mrs May can ill afford another high-profile embarrassment – for reasons detailed in the extract below.
If anyone has a case of “sour grapes”, it must be Theresa May.
Theresa May was plunged into a new crisis on Saturday night after the government’s social mobility adviser revealed he and his team were quitting, warning that the prime minister was failing in her pledge to build a “fairer Britain”.
In a major blow to No 10, Alan Milburn, the former Labour cabinet minister who chairs the government’s social mobility commission, said that he and all three of his fellow commissioners were walking out – including a leading conservative, Gillian Shephard. The move will be seen as a direct challenge to May’s vow in Downing Street to place fairness and social justice at the heart of her premiership.
In his resignation letter, seen by the Observer, Milburn warns that dealing with Brexit means the government “does not seem to have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality.
“I have little hope of the current government making the progress I believe is necessary to bring about a fairer Britain,” he tells the prime minister. “It seems unable to commit to the future of the commission as an independent body or to give due priority to the social mobility challenge facing our nation.”
In a devastating assessment of the lack of progress, Milburn says: “The worst position in politics is to set out a proposition that you’re going to heal social divisions and then do nothing about it.”
The resignations come with the prime minister already under pressure, as she faces crunch Brexit talks and questions over the future of her most senior minister, Damian Green.
Milburn says failing to deal with the inequalities that fuelled the Brexit vote would simply lead to a rise of political extremes.
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