Friday 5 June 2009

My take on Purnell's resignation

A friend emailed me asking what was going on and saying that Purnell should be drummed out of the party - I've been very critical of Purnell, but I'm more serene this morning, here's my reply:

What's happening? Simple self-interest from Purnell, His constituency is Stalybridge & Hyde, it's safe (maj. around 9,000), not but fireproof. It's the sort of seat where if we lose the election he should still be safe, if we completely meltdown, he'll be out of Parliament. Remember he's got his tax evasion problem. he's got a less expensive home in his constituency and a more expensive one in London. He told the Fees Office that his previous London flat was his second home and got paid out for it, but when he sold his London home he told the taxman that it was his primary dwelling and so didn't pay capital gains on his profit. Now, I did go a little over the top calling him a crook, it seems that he managed to use a loophole in the tax code that meant he didn't have to pay CGT, though he did get the taxpayer to fund his accountancy bill to find it. But for me, that's the sort of thing the Tories would do, not Labour, we're meant to play by the spirit of the rules not find ways to get around them.

I'm not proud of this shower, but I am proud of Labour as an ideal, as an ideology. Ideology is a bit of a dirty word in politics, but it's important to have it because unless you have a vision of what you want to accomplish in politics, how do you know what to do? It's a bit like assembling a flat pack and not knowing if you want to build a bookcase or a desk, what you end up with is a self-contradictory mess.

On the back of the Labour Party membership card it has our new Clause IV.

"The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect."

I was a strong supporter of the new version back in 1994/95, my argument at the time was that while the old Clause IV was a work of poetry, it didn't actually explain what our ideals were because we weren't going administer or control every industry and service so why have in our constitution that we are.

But I don't know how some decisions of this Labour Government can square with our Clause IV ideology. It certainly doesn't fit with my understanding of giving power, wealth and opportunity to the many when we propose to act as loansharks to those citizens below the poverty line (a policy promoted by Purnell and overruled by Brown). It doesn't fit when we try to outsource hospital services to companies that are less efficient but are owned by big money Labour donors (for example the Somerset and Dorset Sterile Services issue). I'm annoyed that these people have discredited the name of the Party for a generation without even following the basic tenet of Labour - is this policy fair?

I don't think Purnell should be expelled from the Party, we are a big tent and should be able to tolerate discussion about what our Party should be about. But the Party is expelling people with views very similar to mine, a friend was expelled just before she was due to attend the Party Conference last year. But if Purnell does love the movement like his claims to in his resignation letter then I'm happy for him to be in the Party.

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