James Purnell resigns from the Cabinet
James Purnell is a talented, personable, charismatic and eloquent Blairite - the sort of star the untalented. unpersonable, uncharismatic an ineloquent Gordon Brown cannot really afford to have on the back benches. His departure from the Cabinet is a huge blow to the Prime Minister, and a very big nail in what must be now an utterly unavoidable coffin.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said that he wanted the Prime Minister to resign in order to give the Labour Party a 'fighting chance of winning'.
The message is stark: we are no longer in the realm of veiled threats or coded plots: Gordon Brown will cost Labour the next election, and for the good of the party and the nation, he must go.
Mr Purnell said in his resignation letter: 'We both love the Labour Party. I have worked for it for 20 years and you for far longer. We know we owe it everything and it owes us nothing. I owe it to our party to say what I believe no matter how hard that may be. I now believe your continued leadership makes a Conservative victory more not less likely.
'The Party was here long before us, and we want it to be here long after we have gone. We must do the right thing by it.
'We need to show that we are prepared to fight to be a credible government and have the courage to offer an alternative future. I am therefore calling on you to stand aside to give our party a fighting chance of winning.'
Mr Purnell said that he was not standing for the leadership. He said in his letter: 'My actions are my own considered view, nothing more. If the consensus is that you should continue, then I will support the Government loyally from the backbenches. But I do believe that this question now needs to be put.'
How absolutely riveting.
To lose a home secretary may be considered a misfortune. To lose a home secretary and a communities secretary looks like carelessness. But to lose a home secretary, a communities secretary and a work and pensions secretary all in the space of week is an absolute catastrophe.
Cranmer will be praying for the Prime Minister this evening, for (as entertaining as his departure would doubtless be) it is imperative that he remain in office.