The Live Music Forum

Bulletins From Hamish Birchall


Sent: Friday, May 27, 2005 12:53 PM
Subject - James Purnell, new music minister

'Who is James Purnell?' asked the MediaGuardian in large type last Monday (23 May).

The answer is: since 11 May the new minister for music, licensing, tourism and broadcasting, among other things. But in the two-page feature that followed there was no discussion of his music industry knowledge or musical tastes. In fairness, being MediaGuardian, the focus was on his impressive range of broadcasting industry credentials (including his post as head of corporate planning for the BBC in the mid 1990s).

Purnell's own website lists his interests as football, cinema and theatre ( The Guardian report reveals that he is 'an ardent, season ticket-holding Arsenal fan', adding that this could be awkward when he next visits his Greater Manchester constituency (Stalybridge and Hyde).

Between 1997-2001, before becoming an MP, Purnell was a special adviser to Tony Blair on 'culture, media, sport and the knowledge economy'. He was one of a group of highly regarded Oxbridge educated advisers who 'just cannot hide the fact that they are very, very clever', according to a friend quoted in The Observer ('Labour's New', Kamal Ahmed, 2 June 2002 -

Purnell and other 'very, very clever' people played, and continue to play in the Downing Street 'Demon Eyes' football team. Members include Andy Burnham MP, David Miliband MP, former advisers Dan Corry, Ed Balls, and Peter Hyman.

1997-2001 was, of course, the period during which the Licensing Bill, now an Act, was conceived and drafted... the Act that kept big screen sport in bars out of the definition of 'regulated entertainment', but which potentially criminalises the unlicensed provision of a piano in a bar, or even one unamplified musician.

For an interesting analysis of New Labour and football see 'Labour comes home' by Philip Collins, former director of the Social Market Foundation, now special adviser to No. 10:

Hamish Birchall