'POSTER BOY MILBURN ON THE ROPES'

The House Magazine – 7 February 2005

Alan Milburn has not enjoyed an easy ride at the despatch box since his return to the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster last year, with the Conservatives harrying him over his salary and use of ministerial office for Labour Party work. Last Tuesday's question time session was no more comfortable for Labour's chief election strategist, as he defended poster designs that were condemned as anti-semitic.

Subsequently withdrawn, the designs previewed on the Party's website depicted the Opposition leader as a flying pig in one image and as dangling a pocket watch in a way which drew comparisons with the Dickens character Fagin in another. Tory frontbencher Julian Lewis went straight for the jugular, saying Milburn's decision to "revive the Fagin-smear" was "nothing more and nothing less than a calculated campaign of sly anti-semitism".

Milburn responded by saying he regretted the "terms in which" Dr Lewis put the question. "Those poster designs were not in any way, shape or form anti-semitic", he argued. "What they were was anti-Tory and I make no apology at all for making it clear to the British public exactly what their plans would mean, exactly what they would do."