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Purnell to PM: I quit - and so should you

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 05 June 2009

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell resigns, telling Gordon Brown Labour has no chance of winning the next general election unless he stands down as prime minister.

James Purnell (Getty)

The news came on the eve of the prime minister's most challenging reshuffle of his leadership. It's understood that he began that process at around 8 o'clock this morning.

Most Cabinet ministers will be informed of his decisions by phone.

Brown's dwindling authority has been dealt a crushing blow with the decision by James Purnell, the work and pensions secretary, to leave the Cabinet.

Announcing his resignation, Purnell called on Gordon Brown to stand down to give Labour a chance of winning the next general election.

Reports say he phoned to inform the prime minister of his decision at 10pm on Thursday, around the time when polling for the European and local elections was ending.

Will anyone follow Purnell?

Read Gary Gibbon's new blog for the latest on the crisis at the heart of the Labour goverment.

In a letter which was also sent to the Sun and the Times, Purnell wrote that he was relinquishing his post in order to trigger a debate about the leadership of the Labour party.

"I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more, not less likely. That would be disastrous for our country," he said.

And he continued: "I am therefore calling on you to stand aside to give our Party a fighting chance of winning. And as such I am resigning from the Government."

In another development, Labour backbencher Barry Sheerman has called for a ballot of Labour MPs over the question of Gordon Brown's leadership.

Sheerman told the BBC: "We would love to have a secret ballot so that we can express our views in the confidence that there would be no recriminations."

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