Sunday, 14 March 2010

Purcell affair Labour's epiphany?

While last weekend might have been slightly more timeous, the Sunday papers today get stuck into the red meat of the Steven Purcell affair, shedding some light on the "murky Labour establishment/Byzantine network" of power exerted by the party in the West of Scotland and Glasgow.

Scotland on Sunday highlights lingering questions over what precisely tipped Mr Purcell over the edge a couple of weeks ago, and the paper has also looked into one of his babies - a construction quango called City Building - which its alleged doubled its wages bill to the benefit of Labour members and also lavished money on hospitality benefiting the party.

Meanwhile, an extremely lengthy piece in the Sunday Times outlines links between the former Glasgow City Council leader and top Labour donor Willie Haughey, in what it describes as a "cash for favours/access" row. Mr Haughey refutes the links with Mr Purcell, and a shorter story in the Sunday Herald highlights his denial.

Back to SoS, and in view of the fact that much comment has been passed to the effect that Mr Purcell merely stoked the flames of intrigue by hiring his own legal and PR team to handle his resignation, particularly interesting are comments by his media guru Jack Irvine, who has responded to criticism regarding his handling of the affair by saying:
There are many hidden issues and many layers to this. All sorts of issues about internecine Labour strife, and Old Labour versus New Labour in the council. It was not in my client's interests for all this internecine stuff to come out.
Well if that's the case why highlight this now? Surely this only adds to the intrigue? Thus Mr Irvine either seems to have further fanned the flames or he's trying to divert the fire away from Mr Purcell and on to the wider Labour movement in Glasgow.

And back in the Sunday Times commentator Gerry Hassan continues his Byzantine Labour theme, and suggests that the party must take the bull by the horns and renew itself to invigorate Scottish politics, calling this possibility Scottish Labour's Clause IV moment:
The party has dramatically and publicly to change, to renew itself. It has to announce this change and attempt to reintroduce itself to the public. This would involve a Labour leader having the courage to say openly that the old ways don’t work any more and are counterproductive, that the party was going to dismantle the old Labour state and embark on a new era of politics.

This would be Scottish Labour’s Clause Four moment and could be bigger than that. It would be a moment of epiphany, igniting Scottish politics and terrifying Labour’s opponents.

Thus could the Purcell affair represent a turning point in Scottish politics of revolutionary magnitude, or could the whole thing fizzle out as per previous scandals? Who knows, but there certainly does seem to be something in the air. On the other hand, like the Westminster expenses scandal as the precursor to epoch-making reform in London, after a bit of cosmetic change and a few people hung out to dry, things might well continue largely unchanged.


Not the Messiah said...

I certainly want to know more about the "internecine Labour strife" at Glasgow City Council, the cocaine, the underworld dealings, the dinner that Ian Gray attended as a guest of City Building, an arms length company that Steven Purcell setup.

This is rotten and Gray appears to be right at the heart of it as usual.

Willie Haughey, who has given £1m to Labour, is alleged to have benefited financially from a series of decisions involving cocaine shyster Steven Purcell.

That raises some veryvery serious questions about the far-reaching influence of the party donor, after all Haughey is a former director at Celtic football club and is one of Scotland’s most influential businessmen.

Last year, he attended a private dinner in Glasgow where the guests included the prime minister and Jim Murphy, the Scottish secretary. In February, he donated a two-week holiday at his villa in Florida for a Labour fundraising dinner at the Glasgow Hilton, which Gordon Brown also attended.

A Sunday Times investigation has identified public sector contracts and awards of millions of pounds of public money for Haughey’s companies.....

Labour are rotten.

Observer said...

I think I posted on this before - the coverup may end up being more problematic than the original ''offence''.

It staggers me that Labour are letting the press investigate Purcell rather than doing it themselves. A lot of the things that are being said are dot to dot stuff which isn't really true - for example Purcell set up City Building as an LLP for shady reasons - but that was inevitable after Charlie Gordon privatised their biggest client. It wasn't Purcell's decision. Purcell was not passed over as candidate in Glasgow East because of concerns over cocaine use - he knocked it back. But these things are passing into legend as if they are true.

I think Jack Irvine is right - there are layers and layers here. Labour have now opened up all the layers for examination by conspicuously failing to deal with the initial concern over Purcell.

They really are being hoist on their own petard here through their own arrogance in failing to deal with Purcell as he was one of ''their'' people. Despite the fact that he has dropped them right in it and refused to co-operate with them.

It's all very bizarre, but you may be right it may just all fizzle out - as long as Purcell stays in hiding - and BTW it's not Willie Haughey he's hiding from - the press haven't investigated that side of things - yet.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks, NtM and Observer.

Indeed, Observer, Labour seem like rabbits caught in the headlights on this, but given the complexity of the issues and the dynamics of the various players involved, this is perhaps unsurprising.

Of course, this is far from over yet, but to an extent perhaps a bit too much is being made of some of these things, and with such complexity its easy for those not immediately involved to make more of these things than are perhaps merited, as I think you allude.

Not that I'm trying to defend these things, but to an extent I thought that things like the various Byzantine relationships were commonplace in Scottish municipal politics, and although perhaps skirting close to the law there's no obvious smoking gun pf illegality.

Corrupt, perhaps, but not necessarily corruption, if you get my gist.

Anyway, we can only wait and see.