Looks like Blunkett’s new book/biography will make interesting reading judging by Boris Johnson’s conclusions in his column this week:
It wasn’t Nannygate: it was telling the truth about Labour
My mobile has been throbbing for the past hour with calls from the nice telly people wanting me to go on and gloat about the extinction of David Blunkett, and for the past hour I have been sitting here trying to work up some enthusiasm.
I wish I could feel more happiness, somehow, in this news. I am a Tory MP. I am supposed to rejoice. There he is, one of Blair’s key lieutenants, banjaxed by events. I should be capering around the room and pant-hooting like a gibbon, and yet I can’t help wondering whether I am alone in feeling melancholy at the ruin of Blunkett.
Whatever you think of his conduct of the Home Office – and I am not a fan – it is astonishing that a blind man could begin to manage a job like that. Whatever you think of his prosecution of his own militia amoris – and, again, I have my views – he is plainly, like Othello, a man who loved not wisely, but too well, and one whose eyes, albeit unused to the melting mood, could be seen on Channel 4 News last night dropping tears as fast as the Arabian trees their medicinal gum.
He is deserving of, and will receive, a great deal of sympathy over the next few days. But since this column is also famously a place of ruthless analysis, I will overcome my gloom, and tell you exactly why David Blunkett left office last night, and it certainly wasn’t for the reason officially given out.
Something has changed in the past few days, a change that made his survival impossible. It was only last week that Tony Blair threw himself bodily in front of his ally. With his customary lip-quiver and chin-clench, Blair announced that Blunkett “has been and will continue to be a first-class Home Secretary”.
When he made that announcement, Blair presumably did not mean that Blunkett would continue to do his first-class job until Wednesday evening, whereupon he would draft a truly top-hole letter of resignation. Blair must have thought that Blunko would make it through to Christmas, whereupon everybody would forget the detail in a haze of mulled wine, and the Home Secretary would be home-free.
So what was the trigger that blew him away? Let us discount some of the smaller peccadilloes, such as sending the police round to stop the small boys playing knock-down ginger at his lover’s door, or the allegation that he tipped her off about a security alert at Newark airport. You or I might think it a bit off for the Home Secretary to have used his office in that way, but no doubt Sir Alan Budd would have found a means to exonerate him.
The same point could be made about the misallocation of the £180 rail vouchers: a fatal error for someone else, but probably survivable for a soul as generous as Blunkett’s, not least since the small print on the vouchers may not have been in Braille.
There are many who believe that he deserved to go for the so-called fast-tracking of the nanny’s visa, and it does on the face of it look like ministerial abuse; but, again, the Budd inquiry might well have magicked away the offence, and the most important point is that Blair was himself confident that he would be cleared.
Otherwise the Prime Minister would not have dreamt of giving the supportive statement he gave last week, when the salient facts were already obvious. No, whatever they tell us today, it wasn’t really Nannygate that did for Blunkett. There are some who say that he should have gone because he seemed to have flipped his lid, and was persecuting his former lover, in public, through the courts, when she had told him that she did not want to leave her husband.
There are those who say – and I tend to agree – that he seemed to be using the paternity of the children as a tool, not only to vindicate his “right” to see them, but also to get at his former lover and to attack her marriage.
There are those of us who think that his gravest crime was to spill the beans about the affair to the tabloid papers; and there seems little doubt that Blunkett or those close to Blunkett spoke to the News of the World, because Blunkett knew that the emerging story would so shock and humiliate Stephen Quinn that his rival might depart the field, and he would be able to claim Kimberly as his own.
In a nutshell, Blunkett kissed and told (was it not curious that the story should blow in that way, days after Kimberly dumped him?) and for that reason alone, it seems to me, he should have gone.
But not everyone sees it like that, to put it mildly. For many people he is a poor dupe, who has lost in the brutal game of love, and just wants to see his children. There are certainly enough people out there who see it like that – or so the polls suggest – to mean that those could not conceivably have been grounds for dismissal. Indeed, Blair made it clear that he didn’t give a monkey’s about the affair, or any of its ramifications.
So what was it, then, that did for Blunkett? My friends, David Blunkett did something far worse than fathering two children with a married woman, or fast-tracking her nanny’s visa. He did the one thing that a prime minister can never forgive: Blunkett told the truth about the Labour Government. He said that Jack Straw had left the Home Office a giant mess, and wasted four years, and that Michael Howard had been more effective as home secretary. He said that Charles Clarke was “soft” on standards in schools, and that Gordon Brown was a bully, and he was none too kind about Tessa Jowell.
In short he told the nation that his dog, Sadie, could do a better job than most Labour cabinet ministers. He was dead right, and for that reason, he had to go.