THE unions have fired a warning shot across Alan Milburn's bows. Quite understandably: an election is on the horizon and the unions will want to get as many of their pet projects into Labour's manifesto as possible.

And they undoubtedly have some justifiable concerns. There were many raised eyebrows at Gordon Brown's plans to cut 104,000 civil servants' jobs in the name of efficiency. Those in the private sector will know that such huge cuts usually only mean longer hours and harder work for those left behind.

However, let's fire a warning shot back across the bows of the unions: don't, whatever you do, allow yourselves to sound like dinosaurs.

Of course, manufacturing most be supported, but it is a little worrying to hear union leaders demanding "state aid and intervention".

Most of the public has moved on: they do not believe in the state expensively propping up an ailing industry for a few years; they would much rather the money is spent on the next generation of jobs that will keep people employed for a few decades.

Similarly, it is a little worrying to hear the unions take against Mr Milburn simply because he might want to use private money within the NHS.

Most of the public have moved on. As long as the NHS is reliable, efficient, and free to users, most people don't care if their lives are saved by private or public money.

Indeed, we believe the NHS has improved since Labour came to power, and it would be wrong to stand in the way of further improvements simply for the sake of an out-dated principle.

The next election will probably be won by whichever party's supporters are stirred out of their apathy. One thing guaranteed to drive Tory voters to the ballot box is the prospect of union dinosaurs once more stalking the land.

And Tory votes would let in a party which, while Mr Milburn was being reshuffled into Labour's top team, reshuffled John Redwood back into its frontline.

He still believes that the minimum wage should be scrapped. Yet one of this Labour Government's most easily identifiable successes in helping low paid union members has been the introduction of the minimum wage.