Is Purnell really walking away from it all?
In this month’s magazine, we have an article about the vast number of MPs stepping down - a list to which we can now add the former work and pensions secretary James Purnell.
Tipped for a future return to cabinet and even a potential leader, Purnell’s resignation will come as a blow to Blairites, not least to David Milliband. When he resigned from the cabinet last year and took up a role with the think tank Demos, Purnell was seen to be reshaping Labour’s centrist agenda for the post-Brown era. His resignation might mean a number of things - that he feels that the Blairites have lost, that he has decided life on the back or opposition benches in an increasingly scrutinised Parliament isn’t for him or, most probable, that he has been offered something else.
What Purnell does next will be fascinating. He is still under 40 and talented. Having gone straight into politics after university, he knows little else. So it would be a surprise if he fades from the public limelight altogether.
My guess is that he would ideally like to become a philosopher in the model of his idol Amartya Sen. But in reality he may not have the academic background to compete with the Nobel Prize winner. I expect him to be more in the mould of Michael Portillo, the semi-critical media voice on all party politics. Purnell is a strong public speaker and has some interesting ideas. This resignation is unlikely to mark the end of his political career.