The third man: Blunkett saga gets murkier

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The Independent Online

On the eve of publication of the Budd report into allegations that David Blunkett fast-tracked a visa for her nanny, it emerged yesterday that Kimberly Quinn was having a second affair at the time of her relationship with the former home secretary.

Simon Hoggart, wine correspondent of The Spectator, admitted yesterday that he had a relationship with Mrs Quinn, the magazine's publisher, both before and during her marriage.

But Mr Hoggart, who is the parliamentary sketch writer for The Guardian and the presenter of Radio 4's News Quiz, denied that he was the father of her son - whom the Home Secretary believes is his - or the baby she is now expecting.

Disclosure of the affair in the News of the World came as Westminster awaited the verdict of Sir Alan Budd, a former civil servant, into the speedy approval by the Home Office of a visa for Mrs Quinn's nanny, Leoncia Casalme. Mr Blunkett was forced to resign from his position as Home Secretary last week after Mrs Quinn's claims that he bent visa rules and gave her other perks during their affair. The report is expected to be released tomorrow.

Mrs Quinn's second affair, which happened at the time she was cheating on her husband with Mr Blunkett, was initially denied by Mr Hoggart. But yesterday, after consulting colleagues, he issued a statement confirming the affair.

"I would like to clarify reports yesterday relating to my friendship with Kimberly Quinn. Contrary to the impression I gave last night we did have a sexual relationship which started before her marriage but the relationship became very infrequent indeed afterwards," he said.

"There is no possibility that I could be the father of either of her children. I deeply regret the hurt I have caused to my wife and family. I shall have nothing more to say on the subject."

Mr Hoggart made a public statement after doubts were cast about the paternity of the American publisher's second child, with speculation that he could be the father. There was frenzied briefing and counter-briefing by the Quinn and Blunkett camps over the weekend. Mrs Quinn said she was not motivated by "revenge" and had not wanted Mr Blunkett to resign, merely that she wanted him to leave her alone.

Yesterday Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, said Mr Blunkett was "physically not well" with a chest infection and feeling "heartbroken" over the end of his relationship.

Mrs Jowell said she was "absolutely furious" that the former home secretary called her "weak" in an interview with his biographer Stephen Pollard.

Meanwhile friends of Mr Blunkett were reported to have accused Sir Alan of becoming "mesmerised" by Mrs Quinn. A friend of the former home secretary also said the MP found it "bizarre" that Sir Alan apparently accepted Mrs Quinn's version of events.

A Labour Party spokesman, on behalf of David Blunkett, denied that Mr Blunkett was the source of the remarks. "David Blunkett has the highest regard for Sir Alan Budd and the work he has done on his report, which David believes has done what it was set up to do," he said. "Sir Alan Budd is a completely independent and totally reliable operator, with whom everyone should have total confidence."