2007: Labour Party – Fake News – James Purnell
Culture Secretary, and local MP, Purnell, turned up late for an event at a Manchester hospital, and missed the official photo opportunity, only to appear in group press photographs of the ceremony.
He denied any knowledge of a decision to fake the photographs showing him in a group shot with fellow MPs. But correspondence issued later revealed that the hospital had sent official messages in advance advising details of a plan, if he was too be late, to “mock up” the group pictures by “dropping” him into them.
It is a humiliation for Mr Purnell, who, in a speech to the Royal Television Society, said: “In both politics and television you devalue the only currency you have if you forfeit the trust of the public.”
Ardent Blairite Purnell, is a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, and first worked for Tony Blair as a student cutting his teeth as a media policy specialist at New Labour’s favourite think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.
He went on to become the BBC’s head of corporate planning and a Downing Street adviser.
Described by one parliamentary source as “a side-burned schmoozer” with a “constant smirk”, he is regarded as the ultimate net-worker and is one of a handful of senior politicians to use the networking website Facebook, where he has 117 “friends” including a host of political journalists. (telegraph)
Other Purnell political career highlights
2008: crisis loans: Purnell proposed charging 26.8% interest on interest free crisis loans to the unemployed and pensioners.
2009: Expenses scandal: Purnell told the parliamentary authorities that his main home was in Manchester and claimed the “second home” allowance for his flat in London. Yet, in October 2004, he sold his London flat but told HM Revenue and Customs it was his “principal home”, not his “second home”. A spokesman said that
“Any allegation that James avoided capital gains tax is completely untrue. When he bought his constituency home, the sale of his London flat fell through, but it was sold within the period that HMRC continue to treat it as not being liable for CGT … This would have been true for any taxpayer – there was no special treatment”.
In 2004, Purnell claimed £395 for an accountant’s bill which included “tax advice provided in October 2004 regarding sale of flat”
Whilst renting a flat between 2004 and 2006, Purnell claimed £100 a month for cleaning expenses and £586 for repairs.
At the end of the lease, the landlord kept a £2,520 deposit, claiming the flat to have been in a poor state. A spokesman for Purnell stated:
“James felt frustrated that the landlord refused to return the deposit. He initially pursued the matter through legal channels but let it rest as the costs of fighting it further would far outweigh recouping the deposit”.
An allegation was made that Purnell claimed more than £1,500 a month rent for the flat although he was responsible for paying half of the £1,820 a month rent and his fiancée was paying the rest. A spokesman for Purnell said:
“Despite being entitled to claim in full for the whole rental cost incurred by him and his partner, James claimed less than the amount he himself spent. The rules of the House of Commons make it clear that an MP is entitled to be reimbursed for the rent or mortgage paid by the MP and their partner. Nevertheless, James went out of his way to ensure overall he claimed less for accommodation than he himself paid”.
Purnell also claimed £247 for 3,000 fridge magnets.
Purnell-life after politics
2010: Purnell announced he would be standing down as an MP, saying:
“I have decided that I no longer wish to be an MP. I have spent all my working life in or about Westminster.”
After leaving parliament, he became the chair of the Labour Party, Institute for Public Policy Research.
2013: The BBC ignored political advice and appointed former lifelong Labour politician, James Purnell as its new head of strategy, on a £295k salary.
The director of strategy post was created by Lord Hall, the new director-general who hand-picked Mr Purnell for the new role wishing to avoid a long and costly recruitment process.
A ministerial aide said of the decision: “It is beyond a joke. It all looks far too cosy.
It gives the impression that there is a swing door policy between Labour and the BBC”. Adding that the appointment had “lit the touch paper” on a range of grievances against the BBC.
2013: £100m of licence payers money was written off against the badly bungled “Digital Media Initiative”.
The BBC’s Chief Technology Officer, John Linwood was sacked. He claimed his dismissal was unfair and the matter was referred to an employment tribunal which upheld Linwood’s complaint citing a email from Purnell which read:
“We need a clear line on Linwood on whether he is resigning or being fired and why”.
The tribunal’s response to this was:
“It was notable that there was no third option in Purnell’s mind, such as a different disciplinary outcome.”
The tribunal found the BBC’s processes to have given an “apparently cavalier disregard for any of the accepted norms of a fair disciplinary process”, and that there was a:
“deeply ingrained cultural expectation within the organization of sacrificial accountability”.
Linwood was awarded £80,000 in damages, and it was later revealed that the BBC had spent £498,000 defending the claim.
Comment: In his first year of employment Purnell cost the licence payers nearly £800k.
The jokes on the compulsory licence fee subscribers.