The Blunkett romance that became a crisis is turned into a TV drama
A Very Social Secretary, the highlight of the launch night for Channel 4's new digital channel More4, unveiled yesterday, turns the tale of Mr Blunkett's romance with the married publisher of The Spectator into a metaphor for New Labour's infatuation with the trappings of power.
The action begins shortly after the former home secretary met Mrs Quinn at a dinner hosted by Boris Johnson, the Spectator editor, and follows their affair, which led to Mr Blunkett's resignation after he was accused of fast-tracking a visa application for her nanny.
In one scene, Mr Blunkett is seen chatting on the telephone to the Duchess of Devonshire, or "Debbo" to him. In another prophetic scene, resonant of the ejection of 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang from last week's Labour party conference, a loyal constituency worker is manhandled from his office.
Mr Blunkett has written to Andy Duncan, the chief executive of Channel 4, saying he will watch the programme, which is being shown on Monday, with great interest. His lawyers, who have warned the makers to respect his privacy, have said they will be monitoring the drama closely.
In the fictional feature-length film, Mr Blunkett, who is now Minister for Work and Pensions, played by Bernard Hill, is seen flirting with Mrs Quinn over goat's cheese crostini at the launch of his book. Later in their relationship, the American socialite, played by Victoria Hamilton, is enraged when his guide dog chews the corner of her £11,000 Birkin handbag. When Mr Blunkett offers to replace it, she snaps: "It's not that easy. There's a waiting list."
The writer, Alistair Beaton, author of the award-winning political comedy Feelgood, also satirises the lavish lifestyle of Tony and Cherie Blair, played by Robert Lindsay and Doon Mackichan. Cherie appears with a clipboard, drawing up a guest-list for a weekend house party at Chequers, including "Melvyn and Kate, Elton and David and Richard and Judy". In a bedroom scene, Carole Caplin irritates Mr Blair by calling him "Toblerone" and offering him a Reiki massage.
In another scene, when Mr Blunkett's affair with Mrs Quinn makes the news, he visits the Prime Minister who is on holiday in an Italian palazzo, where Alastair Campbell, recently resigned as Downing Street's director of communications, is hiding in the swimming pool.
Mr Beaton said: "It is a satire on Blunkett as a metaphor for New Labour and the corruption of New Labour and New Labour's love of wealth and privilege. I think the fact that Blunkett fell for someone from that social grouping is not a chance thing.
"In terms of Blair in his free villas and free holidays, it's a package for me. I wanted to nail a few unpleasant truths about power. We're in a situation where reality is galloping to overtake satire."
Stephen Pollard, Mr Blunkett's biographer, who is no longer on speaking terms with his subject, said: "He is portrayed as such a sad joke-figure, at sea in the world and not getting what's going on. It shows his credibility is shot. He's not the figure he was. I don't think it will damage him any more. He has become a figure of fun now."
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