DAVID BLUNKETT: The calm after the storm

PUBLISHED: 14:45 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:07 07 September 2010

LONDON - NOVEMBER 08:  Former Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett arrives at the Service of Thanksgiving for The Right Honourable Sir Edward Heath, KG, MBE at Westminster Abbey on November 8, 2005 in London, England. The service is being held to honour the life and work of the former Prime Minister.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

LONDON - NOVEMBER 08: Former Work and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett arrives at the Service of Thanksgiving for The Right Honourable Sir Edward Heath, KG, MBE at Westminster Abbey on November 8, 2005 in London, England. The service is being held to honour the life and work of the former Prime Minister. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

2005 Getty Images

BEING forced to resign from a front-line position in British politics is, one would presume, pretty tough going. Camera crews follow you as you re forced to smile and pretend it s what you decided for yourself, while knowing that the media – which has pr

BEING forced to resign from a front-line position in British politics is, one would presume, pretty tough going.

Camera crews follow you as you're forced to smile and pretend it's what you decided for yourself, while knowing that the media - which has probably documented every step of your fall from grace - knew it was coming before you even had time to contemplate a career change.

Several, of course, will remember these moments well. However, few will have had the pleasure of marking the journey away from Downing Street twice.

But that was what befell David Blunkett.

First as Home Secretary, the Sheffield politician was forced to resign after allegations he fast-tracked the visa application of his then lover Kimberley Quinn's nanny.

Then a year later, as Work and Pensions Secretary, he resigned after failing to declare he had become director and shareholder of DNA bioscience to the proper parliamentary committee - a position opponents claimed created a conflict of interest.

When he admits that leaving the front line was "really hard, I stuck it out for quite a long time but [the media stories] went on month after month", he fails to mention which occasion he means. So you have to presume this refers to both.

However, he claims that being away from life in the spotlight isn't such a tough burden to shoulder in terms of quality of life.

"I miss making policy and I miss being able to put my 10 pennies' worth in as I always try to do that," he says.

"I don't miss the 16-hour-a-day, six-and-a-half-day working weeks. The pressure of the work was relentless and it takes its toll.

"It takes its toll on your family and friends. I am surprised I had any left when I came out of it all.

"Some of them actually said, 'It's nice to have you back,' which speaks volumes about how the job takes over your life.

"I have always thought politicians in the cabinet should have three months where they go off and do something entirely different, where they know they will still have a job when they come back.

"It will refresh people and it would be good for them - not only as a human being but there is a danger under that pressure you lose touch with the public.

"One of the advantages of being out of cabinet is that you have time to think and spend time with people not involved in politics.

"My new wife, for example, is a GP and it gives you a different perspective on the world. It is energising and you can take that energy back into the political arena."

A rather longer stint of three months may be about to affect another Home Secretary in the form of Jacqui Smith, I suggest.

But Blunkett does not think the under-fire minister will follow in his twice-trodden footsteps away from power.

And of the similarly unsteady Gordon Brown, Blunkett is supportive - saying we only have to look at Barack Obama's words about the current PM to know his worth.

His colleagues in the cabinet are still very much a part of the 61-year-old's life, he claims, even though he may be living outside the fast lane.

"I don't see him [the Prime Minister] as much as I used to do but I see him and speak to him regularly. It is good to be able to do that. I have many friends in the cabinet and I can raise issues with them."

That influence proves useful for Blunkett, who is still MP for Sheffield Brightside.

Since his departure from government, he has been working on various pieces of policy from social mobility to getting American-style school buses introduced across the country.

And it is a career he intends to continue.

As he says: "I came into politics to make a difference and, if I felt that I could no longer make that, I would move on to something else."

One policy he is still backing to the hilt is his controversial ID card system which has been continually slammed for its expense and limits on civil liberties.

However, Blunkett says he does not accept these complaints. He claims that ID cards will be an extension of the passport system and the cost has been exaggerated.

As well as politics, Blunkett is also doing the speaking tour, which is awarded to most of New Labour's former stars - and one which takes him to Golders Green on Tuesday.

Appearing at the London Jewish Cultural Centre (LJCC) in North End Road, he will discuss music, poetry and memories that matter to him most.

The talk will place in an organisation not far from the new work of his now infamous lover Quinn, who currently works at the Jewish Community Centre for London as development director.

Her charity does a lot of work with the Ivy House-based LJCC but is not, unsurprisingly, supporting this event.

And although his talk intends to be personal, Blunkett will only be talking about one great love of his life - that of his guide dogs.

"The talk is to entertain, to give a bit of an insight into the other side of politics and politicians," he says.

"I've given them some music and poetry to play so I can talk about what it means to me and what it reveals.

"I'll be talking about what the few dogs I've had have meant to me and a few amusing incidents from when I took them into the House of Commons."

o David Blunkett will be at the London Jewish Cultural Centre on April 28 from 8pm. Tickets are £17.50 in advance and £20 on the door. For more information, call 020-8457 5000 or visit www.ljcc.org.uk.


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