Tag Archives: james purnell

Crashing and Burnham

Poor old Andy Burnham. A few months ago I took him to task for aping the Tories and their proposed tax cuts for loveless marriages. Since then the boy has, improbably, gained a cabinet level post, but doesn’t appear to be doing any better.

His performance on the Today Programme (which doesn’t appear to be on listen again yet) this morning was probably the most lamentable I have ever heard from a cabinet minister. It was so clear he was not on top of his brief I almost felt sorry for him, were it not that it offended my sense of professionalism.

What is obvious is that these new proposals to force schools to provide pupils with five hours of “high culture” a week originated from his predecessor, not him. Purnell and Burnham could not be more different: the former – a bit of a dandy highwayman who was ushering in a new renaissance up until a couple of weeks ago – is Labour’s answer to Henry Conway. The latter more closely resembles Wayne Rooney.

James Purnell and Andy Burnham

Still, John Humphries doesn’t get away completely scot-free either. He was distinctly heard arguing that “creative reading” ought to be learned “by rote”. Uh?

UPDATE: The interview is now up. Listening again, it’s even worse than I remembered.

James Purnell: Renaissance Man

James Purnell at the Last SupperJames Purnell is quoted in the Guardian today as saying:

“When Brian [McMaster, a former director of the Edinburgh International Festival who wrote a policy review to be published on Thursday commissioned by Purnell] talks about the potential for a new Renaissance, I don’t think that’s an overstatement. It’s exactly true.”

There can be only one response to that (pictured).

On a slightly more serious note, and we will clearly have to wait for the full report, but the suggestion that a) a renaissance can be contained within national borders and b) that it can happen within the arts exclusively is rather crass. One could argue that we are a good 50 years into a renaissance already – look at how the quality of life has been transformed. We’re waiting for the established arts to catch up, not lead the way.