Press spares the vitriol after minister's demise

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The Independent Online

David Blunkett complained about "the vitriol that has been poured upon me" in the press, reported The Guardian - and that was before he considered the several hundredweight of newsprint devoted to his resignation. But if he believed much of what had been written over the previous weeks to be "terrible garbage", he could take comfort - small consolation, but better than being swamped by more vitriol - from the gentle response overall to his departure.

David Blunkett complained about "the vitriol that has been poured upon me" in the press, reported The Guardian - and that was before he considered the several hundredweight of newsprint devoted to his resignation. But if he believed much of what had been written over the previous weeks to be "terrible garbage", he could take comfort - small consolation, but better than being swamped by more vitriol - from the gentle response overall to his departure.

The Daily Mail, an enthusiastic supporter of the former home secretary'siron-fisted approach to many social ills, hailed him as "a remarkable man" and a "giant". Had the writer been moonlighting at the Daily Mirror, whose leading article paid tribute to "a remarkable man" and "in a world of pygmies ... a big man". Big? Giant-size, surely?

The Sun, which along with its sister, the News of the World, started rolling the ball that would flatten Mr Blunkett, saw him as "a man of great honour, knifed by the woman he loved". If describing as honourable a man who slept with a married woman months after she married someone else seemed, at best, an exaggeration of his personal qualities, The Sun nonetheless looked forward to "the day when he returns to front-line politics".

The Mail, the Mirror and Steve Richards, writing in this paper, also supported Mr Blunkett regaining high office at some point, while The Times saw him as "an able man who has much more to offer public life". If such observations were luring this remarkable, decent and honourable man into thinking his resignation had been hasty, others were swift to disabuse him.

The Daily Express, whose love affair with New Labour after Richard Desmond became its proprietor lasted less time than Mr Blunkett's liaison with Kimberly Quinn, accused him of "shamelessly dragging his baby into the mess". A list of Labour government scandals, from Robin Cook's marital difficulties in 1997 to Beverley Hughes' resignation this year, was inside. In its lack of news objectivity, the Express is becoming the Fox News of British print journalism.

The Mirror's forthright Paul Routledge was at odds with his paper's editorial line, saying he hoped his "hideously right-wing agenda on law and order could be another casualty of this crisis". This echoed The Independent's view that Mr Blunkett's "profound illiberalism" meant his tenure at the Home Office had been "disastrous".

In The Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson, himself embroiled in the office sexual shenanigans that have made his magazine, The Spectator, the main target for virile young journalists, concluded that fathering two children with a married woman - Boris's publisher, indeed - or fast-tracking her nanny's visa, was not the worst of Blunkett's crimes. That he told the truth about colleagues was the reason he had to go.

Predictably, there were those who blamed the press for Mr Blunkett's plight. In The Guardian, Polly Toynbee saw "a simple man seduced by scoundrels". The Financial Times thought much the same: Mr Blunkett's law and order stance had "won uncritical applause from the Daily Mail and other right-wing tabloids - newspapers that have now turned on him".

The Mail was probably the most sympathetic towards Mr Blunkett, although Amanda Platell was lacerating enough almost to draw blood. With Richard Littlejohn absent from The Sun, she provided spleen similar to his. "This is all about David's rights, David's happiness, David's pain - and the children and their mother can go to hell in a handcart".

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but incorporating the title of Littlejohn's novel was going a little too far. Mr Blunkett may be pondering whether vitriol is preferable to contempt.

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