Magazine article The Spectator

The Who, What, Where, When of the Blunkett-Quinn Business

Magazine article The Spectator

The Who, What, Where, When of the Blunkett-Quinn Business

Article excerpt

Who is more in the wrong, David Blunkett or Kimberly Quinn? Everyone has a view. Let me tell the story. I have deliberately chosen not to talk to Kimberly Quinn, who is publisher of The Spectator. Nor have I spoken to David Blunkett, or anyone who works for him.

Last July Kimberly Quinn (she then called herself Kimberly Fortier) told Mr Blunkett that their three-year affair was over. Mr Blunkett was very unhappy about this. He was in love with Mrs Quinn, and seems not to have acted particularly rationally. He wanted at the very least to establish his paternity of Mrs Quinn's two-year-old son, as well as the child she is expecting in January. There was in Mr Blunkett's office a young assistant who was having an affair with a senior executive of News International, which publishes the News of the World and the Sun. A connection was established between Mr Blunkett's office and News International. In August Mr Blunkett had a meeting with senior executives of the News of the World, which subsequently carried a story about his affair. The Home Secretary's behaviour in publicising his liaison with a married woman was, to say the least, highly unusual.

However, it might all have ended there, since, as Mr Blunkett must have calculated would be the case, no newspaper called for his resignation. The one paper that might have set out to destroy an erring minister in other circumstances - the Daily Mail stayed its guns. Mr Blunkett has had a very warm relationship with that newspaper, whose editor, Paul Dacre, holds the Home Secretary in high esteem. But while the story fizzled out in the public arena, much was happening behind the scenes. Mr Blunkett remained besotted with Mrs Quinn, and told friends about his continuing infatuation with her. He was determined to establish his rights of paternity, and commenced legal proceedings to do so. Not unnaturally, this upset Mrs Quinn and her husband, Stephen, who everyone seems to agree has behaved like a brick.

On 21 November the Sunday Telegraph reported that the Home Secretary had launched a legal challenge to establish whether he was the father of Mrs Quinn's son, as well as of her unborn child. The News of the World also ran the story, though on an inside page. Interestingly, the Sunday Telegraph was at pains to suggest that the NoW had had the story first, but this was not the case. Of course, the information came from Mrs Quinn's camp, which was increasingly dismayed by Mr Blunkett's behaviour and wished to strike back. In this and other briefings it is suggested that Nicholas Coleridge, the managing director of Condé Nast, and Julia Hobsbawm, a PR operator and friend of Kimberly Quinn's, have played their part.

In the days following the Sunday Telegraph's bombshell the story almost died again. Amazingly, the following day the Sun carried only a few lines. Mr Blunkett's original approach to News International had not been forgotten. The BBC and the so-called posh papers ignored it altogether on the highly debatable grounds that this was a private matter. Only the Daily Mail, with a little support from the Daily Express, kept things going. Because of its close relationship with Mr Blunkett, the Mail was in a ticklish position. It did not want to destroy a man whom it admired. On the other hand, it was too juicy a story for the paper to pass up altogether.

The second bombshell came on 28 November when the Sunday Telegraph ran a 'splash' even more damaging to Mr Blunkett. Mrs Quinn's camp had told the paper that the Home Secretary had been guilty of a number of improprieties during the affair. …

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