Rise and fall of a New Labour star
Cllr David Meikle, a Conservative councillor on Glasgow City Council, reports on the resignation of the Labour council leader Steven Purcell. It is not just a personal matter: Glasgow should be told the truth.
If you a regular reader of blogs and online Scottish media, you will be aware that the high profile Labour politician, Steven Purcell, dramatically stepped down as Leader of Glasgow City Council last Tuesday and resigned as a Councillor for the Drumchapel/Anniesland Ward later in the week. If, however, you rely on London-based media you probably won't even have heard of Steven Purcell and the shocking scandal that led to the demise of one of Labour's rising stars in Scotland.
I'm a Conservative Councillor in Glasgow and have been stunned by the revelations in the media surrounding Steven Purcell's departure from public life. I have taken until now to comment because of the amount of confusion and rumour over the past few days, particularly when an official statement was released on Tuesday that Purcell stepped down as Leader of Scotland's biggest local authority because of "stress and exhaustion" with a recent expenses scandal and heavy workload being blamed.
It was then reported in the print and television media that Glasgow City Council was set to release a statement saying Steven Purcell was resigning as Leader because he had a "chemical dependency" and was being "treated for drink and drugs". However, according to the press, Purcell drafted in his own PR and legal team who instead cited "stress" despite it being confirmed that Purcell was in a top drug and alcohol rehab clinic last weekend following, what journalists claim, was a "breakdown". To add to this it has been reported that Purcell went missing from the clinic and police were called in to search for him. According to media stories, Purcell turned up "soaking wet" and it was feared he "attempted suicide".
Major newspapers in Scotland claim that the Scottish Crime and Drugs Agency visited Purcell in his office at Glasgow City Chambers last spring claiming they had information about Purcell's "links with a Glasgow drug dealer gangster". According to these reports, the police asked if there was any "incriminating footage" of him and warned Purcell that he was making himself "vulnerable to blackmail".
In another twist a young Labour activist who worked in Glasgow City Council and was very close to Steven Purcell collapsed outside the City Chambers on Friday and died with a suspected heart attack. The big-selling tabloids claim the 18-year-old man "idolised Purcell" and was "distraught" on hearing the news of his resignation.
The latest news is that apparently Steven Purcell has fled the country to escape the fall out from the revelations but he has failed to make any public statement or answer any questions about the bizarre circumstances leading up to his resignation instead all comment has been made by his lawyers.
Politically the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor James Coleman, is acting as Leader of the Council in the interim until a replacement is found in May probably after the General Election. A by-election to find a replacement Ward Councillor is expected at the same time which could suggest a May General Election.
Purcell was an integral part of the Labour machine in Scotland and regularly wined and dined with businessmen, media stars and politicians, like Gordon Brown. It's rumoured in the media that Purcell was going to be part of the Labour election campaign launch at the end of March in Glasgow.
Purcell quickly rose from being one of Scotland's youngest councillors to leading the Labour Group in Glasgow to being tipped as a future Labour leader in the Scottish Parliament. But there were many in Purcell's own party that saw him not as the future but as a threat who surrounded himself with a clique. Many are also now wondering if Purcell's lifestyle impacted on his running of the Council.
Because of this and following the latest press reports, I think a full statement from the administration and Council Chief Executive at a Special Council Meeting is needed to set the record straight. Elected Members and the citizens of Glasgow have the right to know the truth about the fall of Purcell.