Was Purnell’s speech too good for his own good?

Was Purnell’s speech too good for his own good?

Is this the man the Gord Gang is most worried about?

Whenever party leaders are changed, it appears, the main selection criteria, it would appear, is for someone with the qualities that the outgoing person appears to lack. Look at Blair to Brown or Ming to Nick Clegg to get the general idea.

And of the limited array of talent on parade at the Labour conference last week the potential leader who appeared to do best with his speech was James Purnell – the 38 year old ex-public school boy who is now the Work and Pensions Secretary. He’s English, he’s young and he communicates well.

Maybe that’s the reason that, according to the Telegraph this morning, he is being viewed by the Number 10 as the one behind the whole botch-up of Ruth Kelly’s resignation announcement.

The report goes on quoting a Purnell supporter : ‘There have been poisonous briefings. James has been very successful in his job and for whatever reason there has been a concerted attempt to damage him and to slag him off. This has also happened to other people so it is no surprise.’ Some Labour MPs believe Mr Purnell, 38, is being targeted in an attempt to stop him emerging as the leading Blairite challenger to Mr Brown after David Miliband’s stock fell dramatically in Manchester last week.”

Several leading commentators this morning have biting attacks on how Gang Gord is operating at the moment and the real danger, surely, is that their activities could undermine the generally better coverage that the the prime minister is getting. Just read Nick Cohen in the Observer or John Rentoul in the Indy on Sunday.

The best Purnell price in the Next Labour Leader betting is 12/1. I think this is quite a good long-term bet whether Gord goes before the general election or after.

Mike Smithson

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