UK minister quits, calls for Brown’s resignation
LONDON, England (CNN) — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday he was “disappointed” over the resignation of James Purnell, his work and pensions secretary, who in a scathing letter sent to members of the news media called on Brown himself to resign.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been rocked by numerous minister resignations recently.
In a written statement, the prime minister’s office said Brown learned the news just before 10 p.m. (2100 GMT), and would focus in coming days “on the big challenges facing the country for the future: how we guide the economy through the downturn and strengthen it for the future; how we push ahead with reform of and investment in our public services; and how we renew trust in our democracy and Parliament.”
In his letter of resignation — published by the Press Association — Purnell called on Brown to follow his lead.
“I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more, not less likely,” Purnell wrote. “That would be disastrous for our country. This moment calls for stronger regulation, an active state, better public services, an open democracy. It calls for a government that measures itself by how it treats the poorest in society. Those are our values, not David Cameron’s.”
Cameron is leader of the opposition Conservative Party.
“We therefore owe it to our country to give it a real choice,” Purnell said. “We need to show that we are prepared to fight to be a credible government and have the courage to offer an alternative future.
“I am therefore calling on you to stand aside to give our party a fighting chance of winning. As such I am resigning from government.”
Purnell allowed, though, that “if the consensus is that you should continue, then I will support the government loyally from the backbenches.”
Purnell resigned as polls closed Thursday for local elections.
He is the fifth member of the Labour Party government to call it quits in recent days. His direct challenge to Brown raises the question of how long the political career of the Labour Party prime minister will continue.
Brown has vowed to fight on.
Key to his political survival will be how his party fares not only in local elections, but also in elections for members of the European Parliament, which are taking place through Sunday. All 27 EU member states are voting with 736 seats up for grabs.
In Britain, polls show popular support for the Labour Party at historic lows.
Brown’s ability to regain authority may depend on his ability to reshuffle his government, something he will have to do since two other members of his cabinet who were implicated in an expense scandal have recently resigned.
Though Purnell, too, was involved in the case, his role was of a lesser nature and he was expected to survive any cabinet reshuffle, which could take place as early as Friday