I’ve never met the guy.   He must have been extraordinary, given the coverage you can get in the FT:

Mr Purnell is that rarest of things: an MP who is interested in ideas. He was an excellent minister, combining a mind for strategy, an eye for detail and a knack for shrewd political positioning. Only 39 years old, he was a rising star among the party’s moderates.

and the Times:

The departure of Mr Purnell leaves David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, as the only potential Blairite contender to take the Labour crown if Mr Brown goes after an election defeat. His chances would have been better with the thoughtful, highly able Mr Purnell as his right-hand man.

I love the Times’ leader description of the prospect he faced:

Wanted: a highly intelligent, experienced person to kick his heels for at least five years. Travelling to and fro from some of the most inconvenient places in the country, you will have the opportunity to work seven days a week. On Sundays you will be able to enjoy attending civic events. We promise to select your immediate boss from among your worst enemies. In return we will pay you less than half of what you might earn elsewhere. You will have to shoulder your own expenses. We are seeking a candidate willing to endure repeated insults from customers.

Amazingly, I sometimes get asked whether I am trying to be an MP.  Look at the above.

Anyway, I agree that this must be a huge blow to Labour.  I was myself looking forward to the post-election reordering of the CentreLeft, and hoping a more liberal vein would emerge, rather than the statist, class-based stuff you get from some of them.  I doubt there is going to be much of a battle now.  Who would want to fight the Tories, an embittered cynical electorate, the dinosaur Left all at once in order to inherit a dreadful fiscal position for ever?

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11 thoughts on “Everyone mourns Purnell

  1. “from some of the most inconvenient places in the country”

    Dare I suggest the Times’ leader writer has no idea where James Purnell’s constituency was?

    1. Um, look, if the District and Circle line doesn’t go there, it bally well is inconvenient. And have you seen the people in standard class?

    2. @Matthew: It’s grim up north…

      Fact is that despite the press fawning over Mr Purnell since a. his resignation from cabinet and b. his decision to step down as MP, he will be remembered for instituting one of the harshest workfare regimes around – hardly a friend of the downtrodden, economically excluded folk his Open Left project is purportedly rooting for…

  2. “In return we will pay you less than half of what you might earn elsewhere.”

    Does the Times really believe that the average MP could earn more than £120,000 a year outside Parliament, had they never been an MP? I’d be very surprised – remember the Commons is no longer stuffed full of successful lawyers as it used to be.

    And also: “…to kick his heels…” No gender bias there clearly!

    1. I think the paragraph was explicitly aimed at Purnell, hence the “working for your worst enemy” implication. Unless it is Cruddas, who he quite likes.

  3. I also say Good Riddance to James Purnell but I do know he will be back… probably next General Election.

    His master plan failed big time and he needs to get out of the spot light for a while.

    First he stepped down when there was too much pressure regarding the Welfare Reform Bill etc. and saw this as a great opportunity to try and knock out the very unpopular leader Gordon Brown and stand as PM. Now that he has failed he is deciding to step down

    The Welfare Reform Bill was nothing compared to what he had planned (including 26% interest rate on crisis loans and further in depth plans of workfare becoming fulltime community service for the unemployed)

    I can’t recall a single achievement of his.. apart from fiddling the system (MP expenses)

    Funnily enough the JSA claimant count is on the increase although unemployment levels haven’t changed. To me this shows evidence of great abuse of people being forced on to Jobseekers Allowance off disability benefit.

    My blog (which you might be interested in) has much criticism on welfare but in particular one article ( http://flexible-new-deal.co.uk/2010/01/18/flexible-new-deal-tng-ymca-training-approve-someone-with-serious-mental-health-issues-to-dencora-house/ ) where someone who is uncapable of working is on Flexible New Deal (thus claiming Jobseekers Allowance too).

  4. I’d take an MP’s salary. I don’t know what I’d do with twice that. More to the point, they get pension entitlements that aren’t managed by Guy Hands.

  5. I remember speaking to Purnell when he was launching “open left”, just a few weeks after he quit the front benches. He said frontbench politics didn’t appeal anymore. I didn’t believe him (and still don’t) and expected the open left to effectively be a route back to lead Labour in, say, 2-3 years time. personally didn’t think it would work but, like you, liked the idea of a much needed evolutionary reinvention of Labour along more liberal but, equally more egalitarian. I was even quite sold on the equality of capability stuff and want to see how that would develop. It’s not a great loss, but a loss non the same as he was definately the best out of the new bread. though, that’s not saying very much.

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