|The Farce of the Year||Colin Vernon discusses the ignominious fall of Home Secretary Blunkett|
When a person fails, in one way or another, any resultant suffering is usually limited to the actual washout and to his or her nearest and dearest. Rarely do the repercussions, the shock waves, travel further than close friends and family. But in politics it is a very different story. Those who would set themselves up as rulers bear a burden of responsibility which they, in the interests of the nation, cannot ignore. Even so, the state of our country is such that it was not David Blunkett's pathetic performance as Education Minister, and later as Home Secretary, which led to his downfall in December. The banana skin turned out to be a sordid little affair with a married woman and the favours she demanded.
The moral issue
While it is no longer fashionable to pontificate on the sexual predilections of public figures, we have a ravenous press which feeds hungrily on any grimy story it can lay its hands on. And, let us face it, only a particularly stupid 'Don Juan' impregnates his paramour in the first place, and then makes a fuss about paternity afterwards. After all, we run a very expensive Child Support Agency dedicated to chasing blokes who say: "It wasn't me." As it turned out, this rank carelessness on the part of our departed minister was to open a can of worms which might otherwise never have seen the light of day. For Mrs. Quinn there can be no sympathy. Tickled pink with her ability to seduce a high-ranking politician, she clearly omitted to take the sensible precautions available to her, and has only herself to blame. Yes, she was provoked by Blunkett's obstinacy but she showed herself in the worst possible light in the method of her revenge.
The nanny statement
Simon Jenkins in The Times reckons that we need the press wolves to protect us from the poodles appointed by Blair to conduct public enquiries. That makes sense, and it was the dogged pursuit of the scent over just a few days which uncovered the meat in this unhappy story. Unluckily for Blunkett, this form of hunting is still legal. That he gave his lover an expensive train ticket, paid for by us, and that he used his position to fast-track an immigration application for a foreigner is no longer in doubt. The worrying thing for voters is that this was an abuse of power which, only in most unusual circumstances, came to light. The question they need to ask is: "How much more is there that we don't know, not just in the Home Office but in the whole sprawling machinery of government?" Long gone are the days when corruption was something to be seen only in foreign parts. In Cecil Chesterton's History of the United States written in 1918, the writer noted that:-
Are we to be surprised, then, that this same Blunkett has instigated a vendetta against the very people who would rouse the nation against the cant and hypocrisy of New Labour?
The swan song...
As living proof that the political mafia has much in common with the other sort, the accused, in this instance, told us that he "did not remember" or "had no recollection of issuing instructions," and went on to explain in some depth that "Everything I have said in the past few weeks about this application I have believed to be true." The final insult to our intelligence came with "I have always been honest about my recollection of events." And of course when we deliver an eulogy it is always in the hope of getting one in return, so we were told that "In particular, I want to thank the Prime Minister my friend and the most outstanding international politician of our age." Obviously this was said by a man too busy with his bedroom antics to have kept himself informed of the wholesale carnage in Iraq.
... and the sob story
The expected eulogy duly appeared and described the delinquent as "a truly outstanding Cabinet Minister as both Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Education." Then it went on to speak of the fundamental reform of primary schools, increased literacy and numeracy, tough measures introduced on asylum seekers, and a drive against anti-social behaviour which has helped put respect back on our streets. If this were not enough to send the reader into hysterics, there then followed a peroration of singular beauty and pathos: "You leave government with your integrity intact and your achievements acknowledged by all. You can take great pride in what you have done to improve the lives of people in this country. And that is what we are in politics for."
A book at bedtime...
All this coincided with the publication of a biography in which Blunkett is said to have made uncomplimentary remarks about Cabinet colleagues. No entertainment is ever complete without the appearance of a fool, a role which the leader of the Opposition fills to perfection. Thus a copy of this book, flung by the pathetic Howard in the general direction of the Government front bench, was later picked up by Labour's chief whip and hurled back at the Tories. Is it possible that we actually pay these people and feed them?
... and a song and dance act
In the midst of all these troubles it seems that the Home Secretary had time to appear at some pub function where he gave a passable, if throaty, rendition of screen star Fred Astaire singing "...when my chin is off the ground, I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again." One Labour backbencher concluded from this that Blunkett had become unbalanced.
Possibly! But think how much better off we would all have been if he had made his career on the stage instead of in politics!