The note of triumphalism over David Blunkett’s resignation sounded by the Fortier-Quinn camp really tells us quite enough about them. Were not a Sword of Damocles hanging over their future in terms of the ex-Home Secretary’s action to secure access to his son, I’ve a feeling the press would be dealing with them in a considerably more creative manner than seems to have been the case this morning. The story will wait and it’s a dish best served cold. The mystery is really how the third most powerful man in the Government could have wound up in this situation. Where were his advisers when he needed them? Was it that difficult to make the man face up to the consequences of his actions. We know where they were when he didn’t need them, or at least didn’t need to be seen needing them, and we know in our hearts we too would risk all to remain in contact with our offspring. But it does strike me as bizarre that such a popular figure in the country as David Blunkett should have been ousted, effectively by a small clique, a chattering class determined to have had a hand in the downfall of an authoritarian Labour cabinet minister, when their own contribution to British society, can at best be described as minimal.
If the resignation has highlighted one question worth asking about this second-term government it’s ‘Where does integrity fit into modern politics nowadays?’ What is clear is that the old definitions of honour no longer fit the bill. Under Labour our sense of values, and consequently our attitude to sleaze, has changed. No longer do savvy, city-dwelling mediacentric types have to feign shock at the notion of cabinet ministers jumping in and out of bed with their officials, or surprise when their long lost love-children form orderly queues at the Sunday papers. The idea that all who enter public life must be paragons of virtue, powering through their high profile careers in a blur of snowy white monogamy has been replaced under Blair by a wry, knowing pragmatism, the perfect conditions in which sleaze flourishes, and completely at odds with Blunkett’s personal style. I think a thousand radio station phone ins will be echoing to the cry that the geezers only human.
And yet, and yet, where was the integrity in falling for another man’s wife, and continuing a dalliance across… what? three years? Blunkett must take his own share of blame for behaving like Bill Clinton when it suited him, but at least he’s been talking about love, and the British public are likely to reciprocate in the long term.
This is at odds with the PR message coming from the heart of the state. That message says that men of emotion, men prepared to take a stand and fight for access to their children, whether they dress as Batman or Home Secretary, are an embarrassment and there’s really no room for them in Corporation UK, on the shop floor or in the boardroom. Modern politics is about limiting the damage these mavericks have the capacity to inflict. Blunkett, a fascinatingly complex, real individual by all accounts, was brought down by a combination of the arrogance he displayed in the untimely bean-spilling about his cabinet colleagues, and an out-of-character lack of thoroughness brought on by his disbelief at being dumped by his mistress. A touch of the Michael Dobbs there, unless I’m very much mistaken. Wiser, and not very much older I suggest, he’ll certainly be back.