Having so far failed to blog about the Labour Party Conference (which I am at), I’ve decided to kick-start my efforts with something undemanding. I speak of the renowned mutton-chop sideburns of “ultra-Blairite” Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell, which disappeared earlier this year, and which I have missed ever since. If you ask me, Purnell can pull off having sidies, just as he can get away with a mullet – which he is still growing. He’s got a rather large head and the hair frames it suitably.
I caught up with Purnell at last night’s Guardian party at the Radisson Hotel, which was absolutely rammed and attended by everybody from rebel MP Siobhain McDonagh – who didn’t seem to hve many people to talk to – to Communication Workers Union general secretary Billy Hayes, and everyone in between. At one point I found a three-way conversation between Alan Rusbridger, Ed Miliband and Ken Livingston’s nemesis Andrew Gilligan. Pity I couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Anyway, having inadvertently caught Purnell’s attention with my trainers (they stuck out in a room full of shiny shoes) I demanded to know: what had happened to his sideburns? The answer surprised me.
While on holiday this summer, it transpires that Purnell grew that most un-Blairite of facial accoutrements, a beard. And when he shaved it off, the sidies went too. A dalliance with Trotskyism? Unlikely. But this will have to go into this week’s Tribune diary. One of our regular readers is Beard Liberation Front leader, Trot and incurable letter-writer Keith Flett. He will be delighted to know.