Magazine article The Spectator

Did He Kiss and Tell? Blunkett's NoW Transcript Seems to Absolve Him

Magazine article The Spectator

Did He Kiss and Tell? Blunkett's NoW Transcript Seems to Absolve Him

Article excerpt

Last week I suggested that in August David Blunkett leaked news of his affair with Kimberly Quinn to the News of the World. My reason for doing so was not that I wished to champion Kimberly Quinn, who happens to he publisher of this magazine. I simply could see no other explanation. Mrs Quinn's supporters passionately believed that Mr Blunkett did 'kiss and tell', and the strength of their belief was such that it was impossible to think (and remains so) that Mrs Quinn herself was the secret conduit. If she was not, who could it be other than Mr Blunkett, who had been dumped by Mrs Quinn, and had the motive of vengeance?

On Friday 13 August Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World, interviewed Mr Blunkett in Sheffield at 10 o'clock in the morning. Two days later the newspaper publicised Mr Blunkett's affair, though without naming Mrs Quinn. (The Sun did so the following day.) The Home Secretary taped this interview, seemingly with Mr Coulson's knowledge. I have obtained what appears to be a complete transcript of their meeting. It shows that, at any rate on this occasion, Mr Blunkett did not leak anything to the News of the World. Throughout the interview Mr Blunkett maintains that his private life is his own business, and he will not discuss it with anyone. Towards the end of the meeting he comes close to making an unintentional admission that he has had an affair with Mrs Quinn, but by no stretch of imagination could this slip be represented as a 'kiss and tell'.

Mr Coulson's attitude during the interview is that of the reluctant executioner who is certain of his facts. He is politely apologetic for having to wield the knife, and even wonders hypocritically whether it would be better if newspapers did not publish details of politicians' private lives, but 'that's not how things are'. He begins by saying that he has 'no desire to cause [Mr Blunkett] damage, political or otherwise'. His paper has been 'broadly supportive' of the Home secretary. He mentions that he had Outlined' the allegations to Mr Blunkett the previous day. Mr Blunkett admits that Kimberly Fortier (as she then styled herself) has been his friend since July 2001, and says that neither she nor he has made any secret of this. He suggests that Mr Coulson's source may not be a reliable one. The editor of the News of the World says that he is 'extremely confident of the information I have'. He also has photographs. (These were taken when Kimberly Quinn visited Mr Blunkett's London house two days earlier, with her two-year-old son William, finally to end the affair.) Mr Coulson says that if he does not publish, one of his sources will go to another newspaper. Mr Blunkett later concedes that 'the Daily Mail have done at least two Peter McKay pieces [about his friendship with Kimberly]'.

While admitting that Kimberly is a 'close friend', Mr Blunkett continues to insist that he will not discuss any details of his private life. One reason he offers is that he would be unable to keep 'good friendships' if he spoke about them. In a rare flash of resentment he says that 'it's a bad job' that he should have been watched. Mr Coulson says that he intends to keep Kimberly's name out of the story. A little later he adds that it may not even be the 'splash'. Publication will be the end of the matter. It will be 'done and dusted'. Mr Blunkett indicates that he would not want Kimberly to be damaged by having her name associated with his.

Aside from his complaint that he was watched, Mr Blunkett remains calm and in control of himself. …

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