How Greed and Hubris Led to Blunkett's Downfall

By Littlejohn, Richard | The Spectator, November 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

How Greed and Hubris Led to Blunkett's Downfall


Littlejohn, Richard, The Spectator


At least this time we were spared the self-pitying squealing about only doing what he had for the 'little lad'. But even though David Blunkett walked the plank he still refuses to accept that he's done anything wrong. Maybe the Viagra has gone to his head. It was obvious as early as Tuesday morning that he couldn't survive. In the end, Tony Blair sacked him for a second time, just as he had been forced to jettison twice-disgraced Peter Mandelson. Blunkett had become an embarrassment, so he had to go. All the usual New Labour guff about this being just an unfortunate lapse in judgment, time to move on, draw a line, blah blah, wouldn't wash. So after a final group hug, it's 'personal tragedy' time again, ten months after Blunkett last left the Cabinet 'without a stain on his character'.

This wasn't about breaches of ministerial codes of conduct. It was about greed and hubris. And we all know what follows hubris.

Had it been purely a matter of Blunkett using his political position to fill his boots financially, he might well have survived.

Blair is in no position to condemn any of his colleagues for abusing their office for profit, given that the Prime Minister and his wife behave like truffle hounds whenever there's a whiff of a freebie or a fat cheque.

New Labour doesn't think the usual rules apply to them and Blunkett is no exception. Codes of conduct are made to be broken.

Blunkett might have clung on had he not alienated so many of his colleagues. Even old mates like Peter Kilfoyle were queueing up to put the boot in by the end. To say Blunkett lost the dressing room is an understatement. And when you've already lost the board room, as Blunkett managed to achieve so spectacularly when he comprehensively trashed just about every single one of his Cabinet colleagues to Stephen Pollard, your chances of staying in the Premier League are less than zero. Only the patronage of Tony Blair kept Blunkett alive politically for this long. By holding out against Blair's welfare reforms, which he was specifically sent to Work and Pensions to force through, Blunkett took a Stanley knife to his own throat. He may have thought he was demonstrating his independence from the outgoing regime and repositioning himself for a high-flying role in a future Brown government. But if that was the plan, he's as deluded as he was when he convinced himself that he was the father of his lover's second child. One set of psychological flaws is enough for any Cabinet table. And since the summer of 2004, Blunkett had been howling at the moon.

Gordon won't want a flake on the strength.

At this stage of any commentary it's obligatory to lavish praise on Blunkett's remarkable achievement in overcoming his blindness to forge a brilliant political career. So let's take that as read. But his disability shouldn't be a get-out-of-jail-free card. And to Blunkett's credit he's never played on it, although Blair does seem to see his administration as some kind of care-in-the-community programme. Look around the Cabinet and ask yourself this: if you were running a business, how many of them would you employ? What is it they bring to the party that half a dozen of your closest friends couldn't do ten times better?

If they weren't in politics, Two Jags would be lucky to hold down a job as a bouncer at a working men's club and Blunkett would be playing the harmonica and selling matches outside Woolworth's in Sheffield. …

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