Purcell – What did Downing Street know?



The Steven Purcell scandal reached 10 Downing Street this week after questions were raised in the House of Commons.


Prime Ministers Questions saw Gordon Brown specifically asked whether a Downing Street staffer sat in on a conference call that discussed Steven Purcell’s suitability as a Labour candidate at the time of the 2008 Glasgow East by-election.


The question, posed by SNP MP Angus Robertson, centred on recent claims in the media that senior Labour officials were aware of rumours circulating about the then Glasgow Council leader at around this time.  The SNP MP continued to read out his question despite some appalling behaviour from Lib Dem MP’s sitting alongside who repeatedly shouted ‘Sean Connery … Sean Connery!’ as the MP spoke.


Mr Robertson asked: “The Prime Minister will have looked closely at the tragic case – will he confirm whether a Downing Street staffer took part in a conference call in July 2008 to discuss the suitability of Steven Purcell.”


Gordon Brown’s reply was a curt: “I know nothing of what he says but I shall look at it”


The 2008 Glasgow East by-election campaign had started disastrously for Labour after their first choice candidate dramatically pulled out at the eleventh hour. It had been widely reported that Purcell was being considered as a possible replacement candidate; Gordon Brown himself was said to have contacted Steven Purcell by phone.


However, in what was considered a surprising move the media subsequently reported that Steven Purcell had declined the offer to stand in what was then a safe Labour seat and that the candidacy instead would go to Labour MSP Margaret Curran.


The Purcell scandal and the revelations surrounding the local authority owned City Building have already led to Labour donors, Labour politicians and former Labour party officials coming under the spotlight.


If media claims are true and Downing Street was aware of the rumours surrounding Purcell then it will prove deeply embarrassing for the PM and will have serious implications for the Labour party in Scotland.