By Robert Merrick
Northern Echo (Darlington) – 18 November 2004
Alan Milburn was accused last night of running Labour's election campaign at the taxpayer's expense. The Conservatives hit out at the arrangement that allows the Darlington MP's Cabinet salary of £72,862 to be paid from public – rather than party – funds. They said Mr Milburn had spent only eight minutes at the Commons dispatch box since returning to frontline politics in September, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
As Labour's election supremo, Mr Milburn has staged regular Press conferences as the party starts gearing up for the expected May poll.
The Tories said their Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster in the 1980s – including Cecil Parkinson and Norman Tebbit – had been paid primarily from party funds. Furthermore, the Cabinet Office had refused to reveal the full cost of creating Mr Milburn's post, they said.
Spokesman Julian Lewis said:
"It is clear Mr Milburn has actually been tasked to run Labour's election campaign, and is doing so at the taxpayers' expense.
"Mr Milburn has spent just eight minutes at the dispatch box in his ministerial role since September."
But a spokeswoman for Mr Milburn said his role was no different to his Conservative predecessors, who had combined public and party roles.
More than 50 Tory MPs have signed a parliamentary motion attacking the arrangement.