Purnell quits; Labour meltdown open thread

10:33 pm - June 4th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    

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12:58am John Prescott on Purnell: “Not so much a Blarite as a careerite.”

12:50am More senior party members offering support to Brown: Jack Straw, David Miliband, John Hutton, John Denham, Caroline Flint, Phil Woolas, Shahid Malik and more.

12:30am George Osborne keeps calling for an election shock! Is the guy a robot? Does he have nothing else to say?

12:05am Peter Kilfoyle MP: Purnell / Blears resignation “student union politics”
11:47pm: John Hutton also backs Gordon Brown (BBC News)
11:46pm: David Miliband statement: “I’m not resigning!”
11:45pm: Why are BBC journos saying Purnell is ‘untainted’ by expense scandal?
11:42pm: Siobhain McDonagh also calls for PM to go (BBC).

– Sunder: Why James Purnell is not as Blairite as he looks
– Graham Allen MP calls for Brown to go.
– LabourList has Purnell’s resignation letter.

So the man who should have quit alongside Hazel Blears over the expenses scandal is now trying his best to become the hero of the hour.

Or in other words the biggest rat is jumping ship.

Headline points on the Guardian:
• [Purnell] tells PM to quit; give Labour ‘fighting chance’
• Brown offered Balls’ job to Purnell ahead of reshuffle
• Rebels say 75 MPs support email calling for new leader

The BBC’s Nick Robinson is still downplaying Purnell’s expenses mistakes while over-playing the Blairite-Brownite narrative. Given that Mandelson, seen as the biggest Blairite, has been backing Gordon Brown to the hilt – isn’t it time the Westminster press dropped his fatuous narrative? I’ll update this post as news comes in from the European elections too.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Newsnight’s wheeled out Liam Byrne…he’s claiming it’s about the political class (yeah, right), tonight’s vote is ‘a clip round the ear’ (with a very big mallet)

It’s going to be atrian wreck interview

Byrne’s basically saying that Brown’s the man for him and any election contest would be inward looking (the usual loyalist guff you get every time).

Crick’s alleging that Johnson’s got a secret campaign team (no mention of Polly Toynbee so far)

4. Simon Leonard

Train wreck? Wasn’t that good to be honest.

I am speechless at the shifting loyalties of the ultra-Blairites. First Brown managed to drive a wedge between Blears and Purnell, Flint coming-out for Blears. Now Purnell has followed Blears, and Flint… has apparently come out swinging for Brown. I can’t help but think that they are all individually vying for their own best place in a leadership contest after the next election.

It’s about power and faction, not ideology – hence the lack of any intellecual content in Purnell’s resignation letter.

Barry Sheerman’s calling for a secret ballot…about two years too late

PS: Any sci-fi geeks reckon Purnell looks like ‘Adam Monroe’ from Heroes? (it’s the same smug ‘I’m going to take over the world’ demeanour)

7. Simon Leonard

Ken’s fuming

Ken Livingston’s on, claiming it’s the ‘usual suspects’ (i.e. Blairites), which kind of misses the point, unless he’s basically acknowledging it’s about whose gang you wanna be in (as it were).

Anyone else reminded of how the Tories used to elect their leaders (or is this New Labour’s Iain Duncan Smith moment)?

10. Simon Leonard

Oooh Barry just bitch-slapped Ken over the mayoral election. Good thing they’re not in the same studio.

Byrne’s back on, thinking all the major parties will get it in the neck (so if Labour do finish fourth, what will his excuse?)

How come the Guardian was ready with its on-line coverage and editorial within minutes of the resignation?

Just asking…

Surely the point is that the people trying to oust Brown don’t seem to realise that they themselves are the problem, and nothing that they are doing is going to improve Labour’s chances in the next election. All it’s going to do is further disenhearten what little remains of the grassroots of the party, all those people who have been knocking on doors and making phone calls for the past few weeks and can tell you that things were just as bad on the doorstep in 2005 and another change of faces with no change of policy at the top isn’t going to win any votes.

14. Simon Leonard

Wasn’t just The Guardian it was The Times and The Sun. Purnell had these lined up from 6pm this afternoon.

I’ve never known a story this big not getting leaked.

Michael Crick was on the phone to Downing Street when it broke at 9:55 and they didn’t believe him.

Newsnight’s got it’s election countdown game on, with Michael Howard (dug up once more), at least two regulars from Newsnight Review (neither of them female), and the annoying politcal wonk trio they always get to fill out the time before The Wire comes on. Like Big Brother, without the wannabe porn stars, To think, there’ll be 12 long months of this.

Brown has lost authority within the cabinet, within the Parliamentary Labour Party but I can’t see a credible candidate coming to oppose him who would be acceptable to rank and file Labour members.

17. Simon Leonard


I’ll have a tennner with you that there’s an election before 12 months is out

Thinking about it, I’ve just realised what Brown’s legacy is going to be: Ending the careers of all these useless Blairite hypocrites. Not having to fight to oust them after the next election will make it a lot easier for the Labour Party to begin to recover. So, he’s not going to go down in history as having achieved absolutely nothing.

The General Election is definitely coming now.

Who’s next? I think it may be one of the Milibands. That is our LAST HOPE.

Liam Byrne is repeating the same fatuous crap.

20. Simon Leonard

Alex Smith suggesting David Milliband and Andy Burnham are on the verge of going.

That would be that surely….

21. Chris Baldwin

Listen Mr Osborne, only idiots describe Gordon Brown as “unelected”.

Simon Leonard – no ta

Incidentally, the guy on ‘Politics Pen’ is no Evan Davis.

Siobhan McDonagh (failed assassin from the last attempt to do in Brown) has described Purnell as ‘brave’

Pauses to laugh

Nick Raynsford has just given Brown the thumbs down.

Alex Smith also thinks the next election might be winnable. I think he’s off somewhere with those better angels.

Burnham going wouldn’t count for much, but Miliband would.

24. Simon Leonard

Michael Crick has just said Purnell wasn’t tainted by the expenses scandal.

Chuckle, chuckle

Siobhain McDonagh “James Purnell has been so brave […] this puts politicians in a new light, people who are value and belief driven.”

She lurves him.

26. Charlieman

Purnell has placed the first name on the signature. From the Telegraph:

“Mr Purnell told Mr Brown in a letter: “We both love the Labour Party. I have worked for it for 20 years and you for far longer.

‘‘We know we owe it everything and it owes us nothing. I owe it to our party to say what I believe no matter how hard that may be. I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more not less likely.

‘‘That would be disastrous for our country. This moment calls for stronger regulation, an active state, better public services, an open democracy. It calls for a Government that measures itself by how it treats the poorest in society. Those are our values, not David Cameron’s.”

Sunder’s line in the Next Left blog post that ‘[Purnell’s] best line has been that people forget that New Labour was Labour as well as New’ ignores the obvious question: ‘Doesn’t he realise why?’ (and is probably a riposte to the observation that the problem with New Labour is that is neither new nor particularly Labour)

28. WhatNext?!

You have to admit that this couldn’t happen to a nicer chap than Gordon.

More seriously, think of the large numbers of Labour figures bullied and humiliated by Gordon over the years, and the collective simmering resentment. Wait till that dam bursts!! And no surprise that the ladies resigned first …..

Lots of people he has bullied and humiliated over the years. And yet the overwhelming majority of them still nominated him to be leader, they still conspired to make sure the membership had no choice in the matter. And they’re about to do it again.

30. Mrs Claytom

Is this really a blairite or Brownite thing?

Looks to me like people getting the hell out before it blows. Brown would have to walk on water and turn that lake into wine before people would consider electing him…even then they would be arguing as to whether they want their lake wine in medium or dry

31. Simon Leonard

Nick Robinson makes a good point.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of what Purnell has done, he has been up-front about it.

No off-the record briefings or coded language. That’s to be admired

32. WhatNext?!

The way he shut down the opposition when assuming the leadership was the scariest phase of all. Now he’s lost the ability to strike fear, the knives will be out all over the place.

Rawnsley’s claiming that Purnell couldn’t face going on the media to defend Brown – has he actually been doing this on air recently?

This is so exciting! It’s like history in the making!!!!

Liam Byrne is repeating the same fatuous crap.

Sunny, Byrne has been one of the worst ministers in memory! Total racial-fearmongering nutjob on immigration, with no instinct as to how to solve problems rather than play to Mail headlines

yawn – why won’t the others just throw in the towel? Is one more year of ‘power’ (limited as it would be) really worth it?

I guess they’re thinking about their ‘careers’, now it would be highly unoriginal to point out that therein lies the source of our political decay – wouldn’t it?

Whoever takes over Labour has to call a general election immediately, Labour will lose, then they can work on rebuilding themselves. Tough call, whoever takes over will be the shortest serving PM in history – but they’ll be doing what is right for the country. We can’t hold on like this for another year.

Is this really a blairite or Brownite thing?

It is a Blairite thing. It’s not the only Blairite thing – there are plenty of Blairites sticking by Brown. But I’ve not seen any non-Blairites going on the offensive against Brown.

39. Simon Leonard

Depends on what Brown tries to do with Darling.

Surely he can’t wait until Monday to re-shuffle, he got to be doing it right now.

But I’ve not seen any non-Blairites going on the offensive against Brown.

Such as who? Who are the prominent non-Blairites?

Anybody seen any turnout and/or exit poll predictions? I’m banking on the possibility of resignations before the counting starts rather than once the results are in tomorrow. Brown apparently has to be in Normandy for the D-Day commemorations on Saturday, before the final showdown with Sunday night’s vote (to recycle a joke, maybe Susan Boyle will phone Brown).

If the likes of Toynbee thought this would be quick, easy and bloodless, they can think again.

The resignation is significant and changes the nature of the crisis.

But the statements from David Miliband and Andy Burnham that they do not agree and will not resign (IF these hold for 24 hours) could potentially offer Brown a firewall.

Miliband and Burnham are close to Purnell: if they are neither coordinated nor willing to follow then it would certainly be possible to complete a reshuffle. (Whereas two more resignations would be enormously difficult to survive, and could well end this).I can’t myself identify which other resignations of senior Cabinet figures would be pretty likely if those two are staying. The political lobby take Alan Johnson’s position to be that he will play no part in destabilising Brown, but could run if there was a vacancy. For now, most of the Cabinet seem to be backing Brown (eg Straw,Mandelson)

The Cabinet has much more power than the backbenchers in being able to make a decisive intervention.

Who are the prominent non-Blairites?

The Campaign Group (McDonnell, Simpson), anyone from the old left (Dobson, Beckett), the Compassites (Cruddas, that one who’s now Brown’s PPS – why the hell hasn’t he quit?), anyone from the old right (Kilfoyle, Kaufman), trade union leaders, grandees in the Lords. All I’ve seen from them is silence (which could be a calculated attempt to allow the Blairites and Brownites to destroy each other – we can but hope), or actually coming out to support Brown (Dobson, Cruddas, Kilfoyle – I mean, Kilfoyle didn’t even nominate Brown, which is extremely remarkable considering how much of the PLP did).

Sunder is right: Miliband and Burnham are being total bores and saving Gordon’s chops. Johnson will try to keep his hands clean.

I would prefer if all hell broke loose and the PLP fell apart, but as the Stones once warbled “you can’t always get what you want”.

For as much as I’m vocal about Brown being a problem, the reason I believe that is so is because I don’t think he has had any authority, he is not, unfortunately, a good leader.

But it’s not his fault that people are deserting the party and that it is imploding, and it is highly hypocritical of people like purnell to believe that by resigning that they’re saving themselves in the future.

If Brown goes soon, then I believe everyone will be better off for it, especially now those people are no longer in cabinet. As long as they don’t get back in to cabinet…EVER…then we have made progress.

redpesto – Peter Kilfoyle was on the news earlier defending Brown.

Haven’t seen McDonnell or Jon Cruddas hit the airwaves though.

I would expect McDonnell’s position to be anti-GB – that they need a change, but that they need an open contest. To the extent backbench voices matter in this crisis, then I think the influential ones will be the Sheermans, Raynsfords, etc have more potential to do damage where they are neither known anti-GB Blairites/or those who called for a change last summer, nor those who backed a McDonnell/Meacher challenge in 2007.

I thought Shahid Malik was gone? So how is he a senior party member any more?

I am kinda hoping Brown stays in. I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed by another Tory administration for a year yet. I want to keep the fantasy going that they will be a millimetre better going for a little while longer.

What did I tell him? What did I always tell him?

Sack Purnell.

Too late now, though. Only goes to show…

To be honest, it shows how low the Labour Party has sunk that people like James Purnell and Hazel Blears were ever even in the Cabinet. Let’s face it, Purnell is a Tory, an out and out Tory. And Blears’ smug self-righteousness could hardly more grating on the British public.

On a side note, I met one of the civil servants at the Work and Pensions department at a party last year, somebody who met Purnell two or three times a week for briefings and such. And, yes, he confirmed Purnell is indeed a complete tosser.

sunny @ 46 – I was asking about Purnell, not Kilfoyle.

Oh, and today’s breaking story is Alan Johnson for Home Secretary. So what’s Toynbee going to do now?

the Sheermans, Raynsfords, etc have more potential to do damage where they are neither known anti-GB Blairites

Maybe not known for being anti-GB (though most of those who were previously known as that seem to be batting for him now); but known Blairites. Sheerman has repeatedly described himself as “a Blairite before Blair”, and Raynsford used to be one of Tony’s attack dogs during the first term, especially amongst London Labour MPs.

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    James Purnell down! Don’t give the man a life-jacket please. http://tr.im/nsPK

  2. Ryan Bestford

    RT @pickledpolitics: James Purnell down! Don’t give the man a life-jacket please. http://tr.im/nsPK

  3. sunny hundal

    Hutton also NOT resigning – backs Gordon Brown too…. I’m updating this all on LibCon http://tr.im/ntcA

  4. sunny hundal

    James Purnell down! Don’t give the man a life-jacket please. http://tr.im/nsPK

  5. Ryan Bestford

    RT @pickledpolitics: James Purnell down! Don’t give the man a life-jacket please. http://tr.im/nsPK

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