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?