Is Purnell deserting a sinking ship? What’s the story? I mean – the REAL story?

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    20th February, 2010

    A Future Fair For ALL

    (A statement, not a question. It’s Labour’s general election slogan)

    Unfortunate alliteration. I’m tempted to alter this to “an effing effer effing all” but I wouldn’t be so rude. Oh, all right then.

    But ‘fair for all’? ALL except the Blairites, it seems. The Blairism that got Brown’s government into power in the first place.

    As Blairism seems set to sink into the mists of history, even as it sails on under Brown, Mandelson and Cameron, one by one we watch as even senior Blairites pre-announce that they are falling on their swords at the next election; Geoff Hoon, Patricia Hewitt, Stephen Byers, Alan Milburn, John Reid, Ruth Kelly and now James Purnell. Looks like a pretty dull opposition frontbench after the election.


    Excluding Brown, whose qualities are outweighed by his lack of … well, other qualities, only the equally charisma-challenged Alistair Darling seems to have gravitas and experience. Charisma went with whatsisname.

    And I’m sorry – I realise my place in this world is to be a contrarian, evident from my thinking that the expenses furore was nonsense got up by the Tory press (now  whatever made me think that?)  – but I actually LIKE my politicians to have experience. I actually appreciate it if they have spent their careers in politics.  I’m not even slightly excited at the thought of a crowd of inexperienced newbies wandering around the chamber in awe trying to work out where they sit,  how it all works and how they are meant to do this parliamentary political thing. We don’t expect doctors, teachers or other professionals to pop in for a few years and then pop back out again and do something else. But when it comes to politicians we expect them to be shown the door just when they’re getting good at it.

    What an odd lot we are.

    Back to the story, morning-glory.


    I mean REALLY behind it. It’s pretty clear that in government or out after the election he would likely disappear to the back benches after his failed attempt to remove Brown last summer, as would Hoon and Hewitt after theirs. So it might just be that simple. And that reminds me of another Blairite wishing to spend more time with the rest of his life –  John Hutton, former defence secretary. Wonder what he’s planning to do in his afterlife.

    Since none of them is anywhere near past it, it’s either carelessness, knives in ribs, or a wicked plan, Moriarty. You choose.

    DEMOnStrably Still A Blairite

    Word here from a commenter at Labour Home:  “We are now told he [Purnell] will carry on with his paid work , with Blair’s new think tank Demos. He will now head this group.”

    They may say I’m a dreamer… and they do, and I am, but there seems to me to be something afoot.

    If there is, Tom Harris, one of the few Blairites still alive and breathing politically doesn’t seem to have had wind of it.  Or if he has, he’s not telling. Tom is in mourning at the news of James Purnell’s decision to stand down. To be fair to Tom he was in mourning when his stupid party dumped their winner too. Their REAL winner – whatsisname.

    Meanwhile Peter Mandelson is all very mysteriously subdued on all of this. Is the master magician keeping the rabbit in the hat for the time being?  Or is really “wait and see time” until after Tony’s birthday which just happens to be the pencilled-in date of the general election as it happens. Co-incidences and co-incidences? Just ONE reason why I do NOT expect the election to be on May 6th.

    At Political Betting Mike Smithson asks this: “Could Purnell become a thorn in the side of Brown Central?”

    “It will be recalled that the former Work and Pensions Secretary resigned from the cabinet as the polls closed on June 4th 2009 in a move that appeared designed to put pressure on Brown.

    He was expected to have been the flag-carrier for the Blairite wing of the party in a post-general election leadership contest.

    He had been heavily backed in the Labour leadership betting, including by me.

    He’s only 39, telegenic and highly articulate. A real worry for Brown Central will be that freed from his political ties he could become an awkward “expert” who is sought out by the media for comment on the party.”

    Milliband is the last ‘Blairite’ standing, excluding the Brownite/Blairite Mandelson.


    Some of Smithson’s commenters’ thoughts are below:


    Blair is what made them electable, the Brown wing will tear the party apart and make them unelectable for decades.

    Milliband, go on stand down, go on do it, deal the death blow to Labour.


    People asked for some opinions of the Red Team so here is mine.

    Purnell is no great loss, but it does show that the out and out blarite star is dieing. Please note this doesn’t mean New Labour is dieing.

    In terms of the leadership my advice would be put your money on…………. ED MILLIBAND!!


    James Purnell’s surprise announcement that he will be quitting Parliament at the election is a major blow for Labour. First, the party has lost one of its brightest and most innovative thinkers. Purnell is one of the few MPs who has genuinely sought to rethink the relationship between the state and the market in the wake of the economic crisis and his recent essay for the Guardian provided one of the most thoughtful and articulate discussions of the limits of the Third Way.


    The news that former Cabinet minister James Purnell will stand down as an MP at the next election is a measure, in part, of the disillusionment felt by many MPs after the expenses scandal: as we report today, up to 20 more Labour MPs could resign before the election. But their departure, and especially Mr Purnell’s, also reflect the despair felt by many in Labour as the party contemplates election defeat.


    The worst possible news hit the Labour party like a thunderbolt today with the resignation of James Purnell.

    He is a huge loss to the Blairite team who know how to win elections. It leaves David Miliband very isolated, but we should not give up hope that he will succeed Gordon Brown. He is the only viable alternative. Purnell should have been part of The Dream Team.

    Anyway, console yourselves. Tune in now and watch a rerun of the February 1974 election. Wilson, a four-times-winner, knew how to it, just as Blair did many years later.


    “He is the only viable alternative. Purnell should have been part of The Dream Team.”

    Nightmare on Bliar Street! :-)


    I often I wonder where Labour would be in the polls if Blair were still leader and had sacked Brown for Darling in 2007.

    Or one of the Millipedes leading with the brother at HM Treasury?

    Might they have had a sporting chance of remaining largest party?

    I think so.


    Labour would have torn themselves apart – the Brownites would have noted the collapse of the British economy as evidence of Brown’s greatness as it fell after Blair/Milipede removed him and there would have been open civil war with the left, under Brown fighting NuLabour for control with the whole thing ending in a scandalous mess and probably a 200 seat Tory majority (which would likely already be in place)

    In My Opinion, of course


    Not sure about that.

    Noone knows how Blair/Darling would have handled the 2007/2008 crisis but maybe decisions might have been made quicker?

    We’d also have had:

    (1) No bottled election
    (2) No McBride
    (3) No 10p tax
    (4) Better reaction to Expenses Scandal
    (5) Probably no 50p tax

    The sniping would have been loud and fierce but not much worse than it currently is.

    I think all of the above would have preserved much more of Labours poll share.


    If Labour had any kind of Blairite future, it was embodied in the now defunct leadership hopes of James Purnell. His decision to stand down as an MP will stun his party and considerably restrict its options if it loses the looming general election.

    In a number of ways, Purnell was Labour’s true heir to Blair. True, he isn’t hugely charismatic but he is quietly very impressive and could have grown if chosen as Labour leader.


    James Purnell’s decision to stand down as an MP comes just two weeks after another former cabinet minister, Geoff Hoon, announced he too planned to go.

    It brings the tally of Labour MPs leaving parliament this year to 90 and adds to the phalanx of former senior ministers exiting stage left.


    James Purnell, who announced he is standing down as an MP this morning, is to train to become a community organiser.


    YouGov poll:

    Unweighted sample: Con 540, Lab 337

    Weighted sample: Con 487, Lab 411

    This is an absolutely collosal difference.

    Respondents to survey replied in ratio Con 1.6 : Lab 1

    After weightings, poll is reported as Con 1.2 : Lab 1


    I’m going to go out on a limb here.
    All these Blairites are shipping out now while they can, because i think deep down they suspect that Gordon Brown will actually win this election and remain as Prime Minister.
    And that prospect terrifies them, because then his position will be completely unassailable.
    I notice that James Purnell isn’t leaving politics altogether. I think he fancies himself as the next Michael Portillo, appearing on This Week with Andrew Neil and Dianne Abbott.
    However i think he’s to young to start talk about politics from the Realpolitik wing, he’s too much of a politico and obsessed with “Ideas” and ideology and all that bullsh*t. Thats why Dianne Abbott and Michael Portillo are so entertaining, because they deal purely with reality, strategy and intrigue, pure Macchiavellianism
    Thats far better than all this student political ideology codswallop.


    The weighting Yougov seem to use extrapolates out as:

    Lab 44
    Con 36
    LD 16
    Oth 4

    I can’t find any obvious figures / event that this might be based on.


    I am breaking a commitment I made a while back that I would not post comments on here, but as a Tory and someone who spent many hours across the table from James Purnell during the passage of licensing and other related legislation (e.g. the smoking ban) I wish to record my disappointment at James’s decision to leave Parliament. James was a very able Minister, charming and a personal friend who will be a great loss to Parliament and his party. One of the two best (by my definition a combination of ability, honour and personality) Ministers I had the fortune to work with.

    Good luck to him. All our loss.


    Genuinely sorry to see Purnell go, I liked him. He looked like a promising future leader, and possibly the only man who could revive Labour’s electoral fortunes after Gordon’s crushing defeat.

    None of the other alternative leaders have an earthly of getting my vote, nor, I suspect, that of a lot of floating voters. Unless a potential leader comes in with the new intake, Labour will sadly be unelectable for some time to come.

    James Purnell: why I resigned (Guardian)

    “I have today told the executive committee of my local party that I do not wish to be the candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde at the next general election.

    I have been proud to represent the people of Stalybridge and Hyde. And this has been an extremely difficult decision to make. But I have decided that I no longer wish to be an MP.

    I have spent all my working life in or about Westminster. And while this has been a huge privilege, I’ve realised I don’t want to have spent all my life in frontline politics.

    I’m looking forward to completing my project at Demos. After that my hope is to contribute ideas to public service and to the Labour party.

    I do want to thank all the people who voted for me in the last two elections, and especially the members of the local Labour party, for all their support.

    I hope they are as proud as I am of what we’ve done together, not least the improvements to our schools and our hospital that are now on the way.”

    Conservative Home is doing a jig on Labour’s political grave, naming and shaming to its heart’s content the growing list of Labour MPs standing down. Of course there are quite a number of Tories standing down too, as it happens, many shamed by the Torygraph’s expenses business.

    I don’t know how much of them standing down are from fallout from the expenses nonsense, or for reasons of disillusionment with the job, with the government, with their parties, with the judgemental press and its even more judgemental readers – the voters, with Brown’s/Cameron’s leadership. A combination, probably. A kind of pick ‘n’ mix, a la Woolworth’s. Remember Woolworth’s?

    Dead and buried, and missed by many. Like Blair and Blairism – Mark I.

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    One Response to “Is Purnell deserting a sinking ship? What’s the story? I mean – the REAL story?”

    1. Just cos you’re… er… slightly bemused Gordon, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you « Tony Blair Says:

      […] worse. It seems to answer my question here the other day after Purnell’s announcement – “What’s the REAL story?” But of course it doesn’t. Does […]

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