David Blunkett (born 6 June 1947) is a British Labour Party politician and has been Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside since 1987.
Blind since birth and from a poor family in one of Sheffield's most deprived districts, he rose to become Education Secretary from 1997 to 2001, and then Home Secretary from 2001 to 2004, when he resigned after a scandal. Following the 2005 General Election he was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions but was again forced to resign on 2 November 2005 after a series of reports about his external business interests during his brief time outside the cabinet.
Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, Blunkett grew up in an underprivileged family and in 1959, he endured a family tragedy when his father was killed in an industrial accident in which he fell into a vat of boiling water while at work as a foreman for the East Midlands Gas Board and died a month later. This left the surviving family in poverty, especially since the board refused to pay compensation for two years because he was working past retirement age (67).
Blind since birth, and educated at schools for the blind in Sheffield and Shrewsbury, Blunkett's chances in life seemed limited. Following his father's death, he was sent on assessment to the School for the Blind in Worcester (New College Worcester), where he failed to gain entry. His failed assessment is said to be partly deliberate, due to his rebellious nature and dislike of public schools. However, he later attended the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. Indeed, he was apparently told at school that one of his few options in life was to become a lathe operator. Nevertheless, he won a place at the University of Sheffield, where he gained a BA honours degree in Political Theory and Institutions; one of his lecturers was Bernard Crick. He entered local politics on graduation. He worked as a clerk typist between 1967 and 1969 and as a lecturer in industrial relations and politics between 1973 and 1981.
Blunkett divorced his wife, by whom he had three sons, in 1990. In 2004, with news of his affair with Kimberly Quinn, Blunkett asserted that he was the father of Quinn's two-year-old son, William and also perhaps of her then-unborn child. Quinn denied this, claiming that both children were her husband's. In late 2004, Blunkett began a legal challenge to gain access to William. In late December 2004, as was widely reported in the media, DNA tests confirmed that Quinn's two-year-old son, William, was Blunkett's child. On 5 March 2005 it was confirmed that Blunkett was not the father of Quinn's newborn son, Lorcan.
In 2005 there was more speculation about Blunkett's private life, this time regarding a young woman and for not disclosing free membership to an exclusive London nightclub, Annabel's. The matter with the young women has been cleared up following a full apology from the newspaper which printed the original story and his membership at the nightclub has been forfeited.
Blunkett's guide dogs – Ruby, Teddy, Offa, Lucy and most recently Sadie have become familiar characters in the House of Commons, usually sleeping at his feet on the floor of the chamber, inspiring occasional witty comments from Blunkett and his fellow MPs on both sides of the house. In one memorable incident, Lucy (a black Labrador) vomited during a speech by opposition member David Willetts. On occasion when Blunkett is being guided by Tony Blair the wry comment has been made: "who is guiding whom?" However, Blunkett's blindness does not generally arouse much comment.
The Blunkett tapesEdit
Main article: The Blunkett tapes In October 2006, David Blunkett's audio diaries were published in his book The Blunkett tapes: My life in the bear pit. The tapes detail his time as a cabinet minister until the present date, and provide insights into the workings of the Labour cabinet. They were recorded every week, and contain his view of what was happening in Cabinet at the time, alongside contemporary reflections and more recent thoughts on the events.
"The Prince of Love ... Superdad" - the Daily Mirror
"The Man Who Loved Too Much" - the Daily Mail
"Destroyed by the Woman He Loved" - the Sun
It seems as though Dave hasn't quite got over his slight demotion from the Home Office to the Work and Pensions Ministry lately:
- After the terrorist attacks of 7th July 2005, he sent a bouquet of flowers to Kings Cross with a card reading: "In sorrow that I was not able to do more to save you."
- And when Charles Clarke went on holiday, Dave issued a statement that "I am helping out while other good colleagues are taking a break. I obviously have the experience and the knowledge," which John Prescott had to quickly and angrily deny.
- More recently, Dave has issued a statement on the subject of the government's "continental" 24-hour drinking scheme, although the connection that this bears with pensions remains unclear.