Thursday 19 August 2010 | Australia feed


Alan Milburn joins Julia Gillard's election campaign

Alan Milburn, the former health minister and Blairite strategist, has been drafted in to help revive the Australian prime minister's flagging election campaign.

Alan Milburn joins Julia Gillard's election campaign
Former health secretary Alan Milburn Photo: JOHN TAYLOR

With just over two weeks to go until election day, Mr Milburn has flown out to Australia to advise Julia Gillard on election strategy and campaign tactics.

Ms Gillard and the Labour Party, which is locked in an increasingly tight race with the opposition, will hope that Mr Milburn can repeat his success of 2007, when he was credited with helping Kevin Rudd wrest power from long-serving prime minister John Howard.

The latest polls put Labour and the Liberal-National Coalition neck and neck and revealed that Labour faces a particularly gruelling fight to hang on to seats in the key states of Queensland and New South Wales. Ms Gillard has acknowledged that she is struggling to impress voters and has predicted that the election will come down to a photo finish.

The prime minister, who was born in Wales, went into the campaign as the clear favourite, but her lead evaporated after a series of leaks linked to the dramatic political coup in June that dumped Mr Rudd and elevated her to the leadership.

Disunity within the Labour ranks has been a gift to Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition, who has capitalised on anger among voters over the spectacular way in which Mr Rudd was deposed.

However, in an attempt to turn the tables on Mr Abbott and neutralise the issue, Mr Rudd on Thursday declared his support for Ms Gillard and pledged to campaign for the party in some of the country's most marginal seats. The move has given Labour's campaign a much-needed boost.

A Labour source told the Australian newspaper that Mr Milburn had also joined the Labour team this week. Mr Milburn, who left parliament at the last election, has been travelling the country with Ms Gillard as an adviser.

"Alan is a longstanding friend of Australia, the ALP and the prime minister, " a Labour spokesman said. "His views are welcome during this campaign."

A close ally of Tony Blair, he served as a minister until 2003.

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