Enjoying a new found freedom from the red box, James Purnell is not interested in the leadership of the Labour Party. His interview with the Guardian this morning reveals a relaxed, refreshed man liberated from the daily grind of government (which he says can be a “conspiracy against ideas”) and ironically refocussed on the ideas of policy – and of renewing the Labour Party once again, from the periphery.
Purnell says that while New Labour was right for its time, it no longer holds the answers to the challenges we face:
“For me, it’s a bit like Britpop – I feel nostalgic for it, it was absolutely right for its time but that time was 1994. We need to open up New Labour, reinvent it and eventually move beyond it”.
He says the project that started off as a “broad tent” has now become a “gazebo” and that he wants to be “as radical on the left as on the right”.
The interview coincides with the launch this coming Monday of Purnell’s new project at the think tank Demos. The project, called Open Left, will study what it will mean to be on the left in modern, post-recessionary Britain, and will look specifically at how we define the left and what it means to be Labour, in order to develop ideas to respond to today’s key challenges.
Say what you will abour James Purnell, for me, this is a refreshing development. I’ve often spoken about the need to drop the exclusive and divisve labels of left and right that exist within the party and to focus on developing ideas for what we can achieve together, and how we can get there.
So while the project will not entirely repel reports that Purnell has one eye on the Labour leadership – it is being launched with a debate with co-thinker-in-chief Jon Cruddas – it shows a willingness to do what Labour now must – to reach out and build a consensus across the party that will answer questions on the complicated but fundamental issues that are meant to be at the heart of everything we do and everything we stand for:
Housing, democratic renewal, public services, jobs, welfare, answers to inclusive immigration, equality and the relationship between the market and the state.
Better late than never.
Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian