The Purcell Story

Ken Symon is among a number of commentators to have rightly remarked words to the effect: “It is most often best to get out as early as possible a full picture of what the situation is and move on. The story can then become a ‘one day wonder’.”

Symon – a former business editor at the Sunday Herald newspaper and now running his own PR company – was writing in today’s Scotsman newspaper (March 5 2010). And the ‘situation’ he refers to is the sudden resignation of Glasgow City Council leader, Steven Purcell.

It certainly hasn’t been an one-day wonder. And it will continue into Sunday’s newspapers, without doubt.

Perhaps the positioning of Symon’s column – on page 5 of The Scotsman – says all you need to know. It sits under another Purcell-related item, as part of a double-page spread, headlined: ‘Lawyers Demand Former Colleagues be Investigated Over Revelations’. Begins the story: “Lawyers acting for Steven Purcell have issued an extraordinary threat against the ex-leader’s former Glasgow City Council colleagues, saying they want them investigated over revelations in The Scotsman…”

It has been that sort of week: a mix of big threats and short statements that has not killed the 'situation'; rather, provided it with a seemingly inexhaustable fund for further speculation. That the whole affair hasn't been handled by the Council's own – no doubt perfectly capable – PR team has done little to suggest the story could be simply one of a senior politician finding the stresses and strains of high office becoming unbearable.

It is understood that only a trio of newspapers were first alerted to Purcell standing down as leader.

The Scotsman wasn't one of them. Its reporters were greeted with the news on Tuesday morning, but they have caught up with a gusto that belies their east coast core constituency. Only it has today allocated some of its front page to the tale.

Actually, pretty much all of its front page, as it acts like a newspaper with nothing to lose (in Glasgow politics, with a small 'p') and lots to gain (in terms of perhaps winning a few, new Glasgow readers).

Then again, it might be a story that doesn't merit much more than a few column inches. Leader resigns: so what, it happens all the time? It's not as if that many Edinburgh folk will know who their council leader is.

But with news – within the last hour or so – that Purcell is now standing down as a councillor, not just as leader, there seems 'legs' still in the story.

It will be interesting to see how the weekend's papers react, and how the east-west divide will manifest itself.