Purnell's decision to quit is a blow for Labour

The party has lost one of its most innovative thinkers.

James Purnell's surprise announcement that he will be leaving parliament at the election is a big blow to Labour. First, the party has lost one of its brightest and most innovative thinkers. Purnell is one of the few MPs who has genuinely sought to rethink the relationship between the state and the market in the wake of the economic crisis, and his recent essay for the Guardian provided one of the most thoughtful and articulate discussions of the limits of the Third Way.

Second, the media will present his resignation as another vote of no confidence in Gordon Brown's leadership. Earlier this week, Purnell told LabourList that he believed Gordon Brown could still win the election, but his decision to stand down suggests that he didn't fancy the long, hard slog of opposition.

Purnell's critics have already suggested that the timing of his announcement, the day before Brown unveils Labour's main election themes, was designed to inflict maximum damage on the Prime Minister.

But what seems more likely is that Purnell concluded that his growing intellectual curiosity was incompatible with his status as a Labour MP -- that, as Kant once put it: "The possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason."

His plans beyond his current post at Demos are unclear, but it is likely that Labour's loss will be the think-tank world's gain.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.