Monday, 22 February 2010


Last weeks announcement by James Purnell MP that he`s intending to quit Parliament at the next election, will come as welcome news to many Northern Voices readers. The departure of this smug obnoxious little bastard will also be welcomed by many of his constituents, who have grown to loathe him during his time as a Member of Parliament. Elected as the Labour MP for Stalybridge & Hyde in 2001, he will be best remembered as a politician who courted contoversy.

He was once described by Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS trade union, as the "the worst secretary of state for social security this country has ever had the misfortune of having". Though Purnell oppposed Labour`s 50 pence tax rate for all those earning over £150,000 p.a., in December 2008, he signed off a proposal to charge the poor on State benefits 26.8% interest on a social fund loan which had been interest free. Though he was accused of lining his own pockets at the tax payers expense, he believed in being tough with benefit claimants. He favoured lie detector tests to tackle benefit fraud and introduced welfare-to-work schemes which failed to deliver jobs but forced the unemployed to work for their benefits.

While Chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, a post he held for two years, he often accused critics of Israel of being anti-semites and he was a staunch supporter of the war against Iraq. His resignation from the Cabinet in June 2008, came at a time when he was embroiled in the expenses scandal. He was exposed as a profligate claimer who was was prepared to milk the system to its fullest extent. Although at the time of his resignation he called for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to step down, he recently wrote in the Guardian that he considered Gordon Brown, to be a 'remarkable man' who would lead Labour into the next election.

In his maiden speech to Parliament in 2001, Purnell, referred to a speech made by Hugh Gaitskell in Stalybridge in 1952, when he attacked the Bevanites for being communist fellow travellers. He told the House that most of the Labour Party hated the speech and he hoped that the party would remember the lessons of those events adding: "there should be no place in our party for talk of counter-insurrections or coups; nor should we forget the importance of unity of purpose that got us where we are today". It seems that Purnell could never learn that lesson for himself and was always prepared to put his own interests first.

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