Page 3 Profile: James Purnell, former Minister


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The Independent Online

A return to politics?

The former Culture Secretary, who tried to force Gordon Brown out of Downing Street by dramatically resigning from the Labour Cabinet in 2009, won't be back in the Commons any time soon. He will, however, be returning to the BBC, where he worked as its head of corporate planning between 1995 and 1997. Some 16 years later, the "sideburned schmoozer" has the job of drawing up a strategy for the future of the corporation.

Good luck with that

He has an unenviable task, but then he will be getting a salary of £295,000. Purnell was appointed by incoming Director-General Tony Hall, who is attempting to bring stability to an organisation still reeling from the Jimmy Savile scandal. The former MP is looking forward to the challenge, saying: "I feel very lucky to have the chance to return to the BBC at such an important time." He certainly has the support of the Corporation's creative director Alan Yentob. "He was one of the few Government ministers who you actually found going willingly to exhibitions and concerts all the time," the veteran BBC executive said.

Let's hope he can stick at it

The BBC doesn't need another embarrassing resignation, an art that Purnell has mastered to perfection. Ambitious and ruthless, he landed a job as a researcher for Tony Blair while still in his teens, and after a rapid rise through the ranks was touted by some as the next Labour leader when the Brown era came to its end. But his hopes were dashed when he walked out of the Brown Cabinet in the expectation that several colleagues would follow him out. "It's pretty unlikely I'll want to go back into frontline politics," he said afterwards.

What's he been up to since?

He joined the board of the British Film Institute and spent some time at centre-left think-tanks.

So mostly talking waffle then?

What better preparation for life at the BBC? Still, he did author a piece for the Financial Times saying "courageous journalism and bold strategy" could help drag the Corporation from the mire. He can talk the talk, so let's see if he can walk the walk.