The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Purnell: “Send In The Goats” (apparently)

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 24, 2009 @ 06:34

What does he look so happy about? He's jobless isn't he? Oh no, hang on, he was magically given the job as director of "Open Left". The result of a free and fair selection process, I'm sure.

What does he look so happy about? He's jobless isn't he? Oh no, hang on, he was magically given the job as director of "Open Left". The result of a free and fair selection process, I'm sure.

… says James Purnell:

British politics is better for the appointment of Mervyn Davies, Stephen Carter, Mark Malloch Brown and indeed Baron Mandelson. We should make such appointees accountable to the Commons so that this becomes an accepted way of attracting people with recent real life experience of politics.

One might think this is James Purnell coming out in favour of more appointments to the House of Lords who then become ministers, which is an entirely undemocratic process for our political system, especially when those same ministers later resign/retire and then become a burden on the House of Lords for the rest of their days thanks to cronyism. But wait…

peers should be elected and given the task of amending legislation

Well… it seems the Guardian headline doesn’t quite match the story. As usual, suckered in by the media.

Instead, what Purnell’s article in Progress Magazine is actually about is the question of democratic renewal and the best ways to achieve it. Number one on his list is my old friend, the open primary. He reckons that this is the way in which we will usher in a broader range of people from different backgrounds into politics. He moans about it being:

almost impossible to get selected as a candidate of one of the main parties unless you’re a political lifer. As an ex-special adviser and councillor, I’m not against people who’ve worked in politics becoming MPs, but we should be a smaller share of the total.

… which is an easy thing to say but rather difficult to achieve in practice. I’m not so sure the trend towards “professional” politicians is that bad; as long as our MPs are extremely empathetic individuals with a great deal of emotional intelligence, they will be good at seeing the world from the perspective of others no matter where they come from. That’s not to say I want a Parliament of career politicians, but they do have their role to play.

So what is Purnell’s real point? Coming out in support of an elected House of Lords is always welcome, but Labour won’t be delivering it any time soon. Neither will they be ushering in an era of open primaries, or party funding reform (Purnell suggests parties should be state funded), and suggesting the era of collective responsibility for Cabinet is dead and may it rest in peace.

All very nice. But Labour have had 12 years to do all this and spectacularly failed. The obvious conclusion is that there is clearly no appetite for his ideas in the party.

In other words the only way any of this is going to happen is if: a) Cameron does it; or b) Purnell becomes the leader.

So is that the real point? Is this merely a little piece of fluff to rebuild his reputation with the dying breed of radical reformers on the centre-left? A long term plan to not be the next leader, but the one after that?

Or should he just defect to the Lib Dems now, where it sounds to me like he’ll be more at home?

Well, we are supposed to be the party of all the talents. POATTs doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, though.


3 Responses to “Purnell: “Send In The Goats” (apparently)”

  1. If the revolting James “Workhouse” Purnell were to join the LibDems, I for one would be getting the hell out of the party like a shot, and I suspect many, many others would join me in sending their torn membership cards back to Cowley Street. He won’t though; an arch-authoritarian careerist like Purnell is far, far more likely to follow his chum David Freud over to the Tories if the grass is greener on that side, and even then that’s a mighty big “if”.

  2. Hehe. I was being slightly tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. I agree, Mr Purnell’s extremely aggressive edge on his policies are what rule him out as a good Lib Dem.

    But my broader point is simply that if we need allies for political reform – which we do – then we can’t be too fussy about where they come from. In any event, I don’t see him as the next Labour leader, so I guess it won’t be an issue for a long time to come.


    james purnell in my opinion is a complete and utter pratt who wouldnt know a hard days graft even if he was given on the job training thats the trouble with these politicians they go to public school go to university then straight into a politicians job no grafting on building sites as a labourer or cleaning toilets oh no these idiots have never soiled their hands with hard work in their life
    if you were to take away everything they had put them into a council house and into a job cleaning toilets or as a kitchen porter they wouldnt last a day far less a week!

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