Purnell won't be able to save Labour

I REMEMBER writing some comments at the time of last year's Labour Party conference that the weakest speech by a member of the Cabinet was made by James Purnell, who nearly destroyed Gordon Brown's premiership when he walked out two weeks' ago.

Graham Dines

I REMEMBER writing some comments at the time of last year's Labour Party conference that the weakest speech by a member of the Cabinet was made by James Purnell, who nearly destroyed Gordon Brown's premiership when he walked out two weeks' ago.

Purnell, who is 39, doesn't stand out in a crowd. But apparently this arch Blairite - he was a researcher for Tony Blair from 1989 to 1992 - is seen as the person most likely to receive the blessing of the Bomber of Baghdad when Gordon Brown calls it a day.

But he's no David Cameron, and he's not even a Nick Clegg. I'm afraid he just doesn't have the `It' factor which marks him out as a future leader


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The coup to topple Brown was given momentum by the resignation of Hazel Blears, a former chairman of the Labour Party. But as she had earlier been exposed for avoiding �13,000 capital gains tax on the sale of a second home, it really needed a so-called big hitter to join the plotters and Foreign Secretary David Miliband admits he considered it but bottled out.

In all honesty, the only two people in the Cabinet who would be plausible assassins are Alan Jonson and Alistair Darling, and neither seems willing to do the deed. So Gordon Brown governs by default - and will do so until the General Election.

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BROWN TURNS TO THE LORDS

FOR a Prime Minister who claims to be a parliamentary moderniser who has reform of the House of Lord in his sights, Gordon Brown is using the upper house to bolster his faltering administration. Lord Mandelson, Baroness Royall and Lord Adonis hold key offices of state, while Sir Alan Sugar and Glenys Kinnock have been given peerages so they can join the government.

The ability of prime ministers to create life peers and peeresses at the click of the fingers is one of the obscenities of the way we are governed.

If Gordon Brown is as good as his word, most members of the House of Lords will soon be elected, thus removing the option of people becoming members of the government who have not been chosen by the electorate.

And about time too.

MOLE'S SALARY

WHILE we're on the subject of the reshuffled government, I seem to have rather over-calculated the salary that Ipswich MP Chris Mole will collect as a junior minister. My defence is that I used a badly worded agency report as the basis of my own story, for which I apologise.

SPEAKER TALK

WHO will be the new Speaker of the House of Commons? The popular choice in the country is Ann Widdecombe, but I can't see Labour MPs - who are the electorate in the contest - giving her their support.

Thus once again, MPs will demonstrate just how out of touch they are with their constituents.

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