Fraser Nelson

Purnell’s enjoying the freedom of the backbenches

Purnell's enjoying the freedom of the backbenches
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James Purnell has just spoken at The Spectator’s Paths to Prosperity conference, with sideburns bushier than ever after the summer. He was doing an on-stage interview with Andrew Neil and was quite firm on the release of al-Megrahi. "He should have died in jail” said Purnell. “I would have left him in jail." I suspect the freedom to say such things is one of the reasons that Purnell quit government. He later took questions (quite often rude ones) from the floor. Sir Richard Sykes had been on earlier, talking about the dismal state of British education, and Purnell was asked why he couldn’t just agree that schools had gone downhill too. He drew the line at trashing Labour’s record on education. But I think we can see Purnell set off into his own orbit. I don’t think he will be a candidate in the next Labour leadership election, but I do think he’ll be a main player in the coming battle for Labour’s soul.