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Tuesday, 12 October, 1999, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
Alan Milburn: A healthy challenge
milburn
The 41-year-old MP has considerable health experience
Alan Milburn has had a rapid rise in the ministerial ranks since Labour came to power in 1997.

Even when he was passed over for promotion in the July 1998 reshuffle he was reportedly assured by Prime Minister Tony Blair that he was "cabinet material".

Cabinet reshuffle
The ambitious and energetic Darlington MP finally made the cabinet in December 1998 when he became chief secretary to the Treasury after Peter Mandelson's resignation.

He earned that promotion after impressing the prime minister with his performance as a health minister.

The 41-year-old MP had previously gained health experience as an opposition spokesman from 1995-96.

Upon becoming a health minister in May 1997 he was put in charge of promoting private finance initiative (PFI) projects to build new hospitals in controversial partnerships between the NHS and large companies.

Mr Milburn also did not endear himself to health workers by making tough noises about tackling ineffective hospitals and their managers.

As a result of his stance on this issue and on the staging of NHS pay rises he was barracked by delegates at a Unison conference in July 1998.

But despite being an enthusiastic Blairite he has impressive old Labour credentials.

Raised by a single mother, he has a strong belief in the notion of "community".

Mr Milburn ran the campaign to save Sunderland's shipyards and is a past president of MSF union in North the East.

He also worked as a business development officer for North Tyneside Council before becoming an MP in 1992.

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