Blunkett's demise

As I drove in today listening to the radio, the news started to roll across one of the two big stories of the day – from Blunkett may resign – to – hasn’t turned up to Pensions Select Committee – to – coming out of Downing Street – to had handed in his resignation.

I don’t think there was any way out for him really. I was talking to Menzies Campbell (Lib Dem deputy leader) later in the day who was saying (in jest) that it was my fault for asking the question and that other Ministers should be afraid.

I asked him whether he thought it would have made any difference if Blunkett had chosen, instead of attacking me for daring to ask a question about whether his judgement being so publicly called into question meant he was still able to do his job as a minister, to instead say something like ‘the Honourable Lady is right. I have had so many personal disasters in recent times that I have done things, albeit unwittingly, that have resulted in my making errors of judgement – but I apologise to the House and am putting all in order as the job I have to do is the single most important thing on this nation’s agenda and on mine …’ Menzies said he thought that contrition went a long way in the House. But contrition so isn’t David Blunkett. His position worsened between Monday’s questions and today – and the inevitable conclusion was reached.

It is extraordinary that a man so brilliant in a work situation (whether you love or hate his policies) could be so floored by personal relationships – but that’s just the truth of how life is.

Prime Minister’s Questions followed quickly on – and Tony B decided on a strange defence of his actions vis a vis Blunkett. He said that Blunkett had broken the Ministerial Code – but that he shouldn’t go. He said that it wasn’t a sacking offence. This shouldn’t be anything to do with what Blair or any other Prime Minister thinks is ‘serious’ or not. So I would suggest that the decision is taken out of the Prime Minister’s hands – and that there is an independent panel to decide about such matters. You simply cannot have a Ministerial Code that is broken and have a Prime Minister saying basically – well it doesn’t matter.

On the run and wounded Blair looked weak as he wanly defended himself against accusations of being a lame duck as power and influence and friends in the Cabinet drained away. The colour drained away too from his face. Nasty business today.

And it got worse as we spent the rest of the day debating the Terror Bill where the Government was forced into retreat on its proposals for extending detention for 90 days without charge. Having come within one vote of defeat on an earlier amendment – Charles Clarke (who is no fool) backed down and conceded talks –  thus avoiding a vote against the proposals. We’ll see what happens. Only other thing to report is dashing out into pouring rain to meet with the lobby for Trade Justice. There was a Hornsey & Wood Green delegation and I am so glad I was able to get out and talk to them (the votes and getting out the chamber was not easy).