New £295,000 BBC director 'covered up' links to Labour Party social club and insists he is 'politically impartial' (despite being in Brown's cabinet)

  • James Purnell served as Culture Secretary under Gordon Brown
  • In Who’s Who he is listed as a member of Stalybridge Labour Club
  • Club regular claimed Purnell had been there as recently as last autumn

By Miles Goslett


James Purnell speaking as the Work and Pensions Secretary at the Labour Party conference in 2008

Old ties: James Purnell speaking as the Work and Pensions Secretary at the Labour Party conference in 2008

Former Cabinet Minister James Purnell is at the centre of claims that he ‘covered up’ his membership of a Labour Party social club in an attempt to defuse the controversy over his new high-powered job at the BBC.

His appointment as the BBC’s £295,000-a-year director of strategy and digital has angered senior Conservatives because he was a Labour MP between 2001 and 2010 and served as Culture Secretary under Gordon Brown.

Mr Purnell’s boss, BBC director-general Lord Hall, insists that Mr Purnell is now impartial, having ‘hung his boots up at the door and left politics behind’.

But doubt has been cast on this claim after it emerged he is still listed in the 2013 edition of Who’s Who as a member of Stalybridge Labour Club near Manchester.

The BBC insisted the entry was a mistake – only to be contradicted by the club. The saga then took a farcical turn when a club stewardess mistook a Mail on Sunday reporter for Mr Purnell and told him: ‘Sorry, James, a reporter has been on and caught me unawares.’

The club is in Mr Purnell’s former Stalybridge constituency. Disgraced BBC presenter Stuart Hall has also been a frequent visitor.

When a reporter first rang the club, the stewardess said Mr Purnell ‘definitely’ belonged, adding: ‘Something happened the other week and his name came up.’ But when the BBC was asked if Purnell was still a member, a spokesman insisted he left the club in 2010.


A Mail on Sunday journalist then phoned the stewardess, saying he wanted to ‘talk about James Purnell’. Mishearing, the stewardess said: ‘Sorry, James, I can’t really hear what you are saying but it’s about a journalist from the Mail who has been on. He caught me unawares. But when he called back again later, I said I couldn’t divulge anything.’

A club regular later claimed Purnell had been there as recently as last autumn.

Stalybridge Labour Club in Tameside, Greater Manchester

Awkward questions: Is James Purnell still a member of Stalybridge Labour Club in Tameside, Greater Manchester?

And a source at Who’s Who confirms that although Purnell has updated some details since 2010 in his listing, he has never removed his membership of the club.

Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘It appears James Purnell has not been totally straight about this matter and hasn’t hung up his political boots.’

A BBC spokesman last night insisted Mr Purnell left the club in 2010. The spokesman said the confusion had arisen from an outdated Who’s Who entry – and falsely accused The Mail on Sunday of masquerading as James Purnell in a phone conversation.

 James Purnell with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown

'No longer political': James Purnell with then Prime Minister Gordon Brown

A spokesman said: ‘The Stalybridge Labour Club has confirmed that James Purnell has not been a member since 2010. The only contact Purnell has had with the club in the last three years was this week when a trustee alerted him to journalist enquiries and a phone call they had received from someone purporting to be Purnell but who was not him.’

James Purnell said: ‘I have not been a member of the Stalybridge Labour Club since 2010. My Who’s Who entry is out of date and will be updated shortly.’


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Hahah brilliant Impartial yea right

Click to rate     Rating   663

All those years ago when the BBC was listened to by the World as being the most impartial and informative reporter of all things terrestrial, how did they do it and why can't they do so now ? Why does everything have to be reduced to political beliefs ? It is, believe it or not, possible to respect a person who holds the completely opposite view just as vehemently as you hold yours. So BBC gives us the facts and let us make up our own minds.!!

Click to rate     Rating   326

I am really ANGRY at the way the fee is used. Since January, I have been passed from one department to another, with a query over the COST of the licence.The BBC gets £5 BILLION from the fee, the rest goes to the Government. Despite being told that the Secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport ( DCMS) sets the cost of the TV licence, the latest reply states they cannot answer my question, and directed me back to the BBC and TV Licencing. TV LICENCING ARE COLLECTING THIS MONEY FOR THE BBC AND THE GOVERNMENT.WHY SHOULD WE KEEP PAYING THIS FEE, WHEN THEY CAN'T ANSWER MY QUESTION? THIS NEEDS TO BE INVESTIGATED.

Click to rate     Rating   495

good job I dont ever buy a tv licence

Click to rate     Rating   333

Clearly he has a hard left bias, just like the rest of the BBC. I shouldnt complain though, I dont pay the telly tax!

Click to rate     Rating   405

I am afraid Cammo reaps what he sows...he has no control over anything

Click to rate     Rating   284

As if the fact is could make the BBC bias any more left wing, even Russian TV-RT struggles to match its left wing bias.

Click to rate     Rating   580

Scrap the daylight robbery licence fee.

Click to rate     Rating   559

I would have thought that affiliation to the Labour Party was a prerequisite to working for the BBC. Their reporting and evident left wing bias would certainly suggest it.

Click to rate     Rating   721

TIME to SCRAP the TV licence! The BBC is BIASED & CORRUPT and no longer fit for purpose!

Click to rate     Rating   808

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