Blunkett stays off-stage but hints at comeback

Show time With `David Blunkett - The Musical', and his ex-lover giving birth to a baby, the former home secretary will stay in the limelight
David Blunkett was keeping such a low profile last week that more people saw a middle-aged American woman sitting at a piano pretending for a moment to be Mr Blunkett than saw the former home secretary himself.

The lady in question is the slightly mysterious MJ, a previously unknown songwriter from New York. One would call her a "new" face, if she were a couple of decades younger.

MJ is part of the team putting together David Blunkett - The Musical, which will ensure that the former home secretary's private life continues to be anything but private for many weeks yet, despite his avowed wish to keep that aspect of his story out of the newspapers.

Last week, for the first time since his forced resignation, Mr Blunkett was telling friends that he was relieved to be out of the Government.

High-pressure party politics will be centred on the Home Office this week. The Government's announcement on asylum and immigration tomorrow; Michael Howard's new policy on crime and sentencing; the continuing controversy over the Belmarsh detainees; and the return of the identity cards Bill to the Commons. All these would have been Mr Blunkett's responsibility had he not been forced to resign just before Christmas over that business about a nanny.

He has privately admitted that it is better this way, because he could not have given politics his full attention in a week when he could not prevent his private life from grabbing the headlines again.

Mr Blunkett is known to be planning a gradual return to front-line politics, with low-key constituency visits this month. He is expected to follow that with a couple of big speeches in March, defending the Government's record in the run-up to an election.

Talk of him returning to the Cabinet after the election is premature. Having run two of the biggest government departments, and before that Sheffield council, Mr Blunkett is unlikely to be tempted by a down-table cabinet role. However, it is rumoured he might be interested in taking over Alan Milburn's job, assuming Mr Milburn moves on after the election.

He has been socialising with fellow MPs a great deal inside the Commons, to rebuild political alliances.

Meanwhile, his attention over the next few days will be focused on a matter that he will not discuss in public, but which it has become impossible to keep private.

The arrival last Wednesday of a baby, born by caesarean section at St Mary's Hospital in London, to Mr Blunkett's former lover, Kimberly Quinn, filled the front page of The Sun the next day.

The day after that, The Sun had a document that could only have come from the Quinns or someone very close to them. It was a copy of the child's birth certificate.

It revealed that, with the child less than 48 hours old, Stephen Quinn, Kimberley's husband, had registered the birth, putting himself down as the father - in what looks like a deliberate throwing down of the gauntlet to the former home secretary.

Mr Quinn had a vasectomy before his marriage to The Spectator's publisher, then sought to have it reversed. The child, named Lorcan, was conceived while Mrs Quinn was having an affair with Mr Blunkett, which she ended last August.

If Mr Blunkett wants to have any part in baby Lorcan's future, he will now have to go back to the family court and seek a DNA test to establish paternity. A similar test on Mrs Quinn's older son, now aged two, established that Mr Blunkett was his father.

If the arrival of the baby was not enough to keep the affair in the public eye, there is also David Blunkett - The Musical, which is being hastily put together to be previewed at London's Soho Theatre in April and run at the Edinburgh Festival.

"What we are looking at is Noises Off meets Round The Horne meets Jerry Springer - that sort of thing," the show's producer, Martin Witts, explained.

The production will feature four key characters: Mr Blunkett, his ex- lover, and the widely assumed to be adulterous couple who first brought them together, the Tory MP and editor of The Spectator, Boris Johnson, and the journalist Petronella Wyatt.

The show has been put together by Mr Witts, who notched up a success in London's West End with a biopic about the snooker player Alex Higgins; The Times journalist Ginny Dougary; and a previously unknown New York songwriter, a middle-aged woman who styles herself as MJ.