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Friday, 5 June 2009

The Man in the Picture

Just when Pa Broon thought he’d seen the last of the dissenters with the return to Salford of Hazel Blears, up popped another ministerial resignation, this time accompanied by an invite to step down. The intervention – which was widely rumoured all yesterday – was that of Blairite James Purnell, the recent originator of a new comedy genre.

Purnell, it has been told, privately considered his position yesterday, so privately that the impending ministerial walkout was all round the Westminster village several hours before it happened. The only good thing for Pa Broon was that he delayed his declaration until the polls closed.

So who is James Purnell, and what is his unique contribution to comedy? Well, he’s a paid up member of the New Labour Project, however that defines itself today, and until last night had been Work and Pensions Secretary. In this office he had been “thinking the unthinkable”, which manifested itself in the form of a perceived authoritarian attitude towards benefit claimants. This kind of thing plays well with the readers of the Daily Mail, whose legendarily foul mouthed editor Paul Dacre is clearly unhappy contributing any of his 1.5 million annual remuneration package in taxes, just to keep the Great Unwashed out of the workhouse.

Purnell’s invaluable comedy moment came when he was delayed en route to a photo opportunity: to rectify this problem with the space-time continuum, his image was edited in later. Following the discovery of his truth economy moment, the Purnell face has appeared in the crowd behind Neville Chamberlain and his piece of paper, in Red Square with Lenin, and most importantly at the first moon landing. Thus he has become established as a legend in his own lunchtime.

But there was one deadly serious message in the Purnell resignation letter: his urging of Pa Broon’s departure was because young Mr P is still looking towards Labour winning the next General Election. That should sound a warning to David Cameron: this means that his opponents still possess some fight. Young Dave has, in the past 24 hours, been routinely telling anyone who will listen that he’s jolly angry (again), and that he jolly well wants a General Election (again). Unfortunately the play acting doesn’t move his opponents, and the calling of a General Election is not in his gift.

Moreover, as Cameron has just reopened several candidate selections, a process which could take until the end of the year to complete, the Tories wouldn’t be ready until next year anyway.

Unless, of course, the new openness on candidate selection is just for show.

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