Blunkett claims Budd has been 'mesmerised' by Kimberly Quinn

Blunkett says ex-lover using charm and spin to influence inquiry
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Indy Politics

Sir Alan Budd, the official investigating the events that brought about the downfall of David Blunkett, has been accused of allowing himself to be "mesmerised" by the former home secretary's ex-lover, Kimberly Quinn.

Friends of Mr Blunkett are angry that Sir Alan appears to have accepted the version of events he heard from Mrs Quinn at her hospital bedside, although it conflicted with what he has been told by Mr Blunkett and officials from his private office.

Mr Blunkett told one friend: "Somebody said to me, who is in the know on this: 'Alan Budd appears to have been as mesmerised by Kimberly Quinn as you' - ie me, David - 'had been.'"

The former home secretary has vowed to fight back against any suggestion that he has lied or behaved dishonestly. He believes he is the target of a skilfully run propaganda campaign orchestrated by his former lover and her husband, Stephen Quinn, a Condé Nast publisher, whom he accused of "parading themselves".

He has also told a friend that it is "bizarre" that Sir Alan apparently accepts Mrs Quinn's version of events, "even though it contradicts what she already said".

Mr Blunkett claimed: "It's strange because absolutely nobody else in the system remembers - nobody - and they don't have to cover up for me because I've gone now."

Mr Blunkett was back in his Sheffield home yesterday, while his former lover and her husband left their Mayfair home for a holiday. Mr Blunkett described his downfall as a case of "the American millionairess knocking out the voice of the people".

He added: "Now they have got all the resources and I have got none. I have been honest all along."

One insider said that Mr Blunkett's fate was actually sealed last week, at the moment when Michael Howard flourished a copy of the newly published biography of him at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday. Mr Blunkett resigned just over two hours later, after meeting Tony Blair in Downing Street.

The book contained rare "on the record" proof of furious policy disagreements between cabinet ministers. One of the most damaging passages revealed how Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, opposed the legislation to introduce national ID cards.

The Government will face a small rebellion from backbench Labour MPs tomorrow, when the legislation is brought before the Commons for its second reading. The Liberal Democrats will also vote against it.

One senior figure described the Blair-Howard exchange as the "tipping point" that finished the Home Secretary's cabinet career. Another said: "If you ask whether Tony had thought about it and had got a sense that something was happening, the answer is yes - but David was also very clear that he had to go."

A majority of the public agrees that Mr Blunkett had to resign, acccording to the first poll conducted since his resignation, for The Independent on Sunday. In interviews carried out after the former home secretary's departure, 52 per cent of the public said he was right to resign, while 39 per cent said he was wrong.

The poll, carried out by Communicate Research between Tuesday and Thursday last week, shows that Mr Blunkett's resignation had no effect on the popularity of the Government.

Before he announced his resignation, 65 per cent agreed that he should go if he was found to have "misused his position to help his lover's nanny get a visa to stay in Britain".

By a narrow margin, the public also thought it was "unbecoming of the Home Secretary to use the courts to try to force Kimberly Quinn to give him access to her child": 45 per cent agreed and 42 per cent disagreed.

Sir Alan, who is expected to report early this week, will confirm that the Filipina nanny, Leoncia Casalme, was given favourable treatment by the immigration service, days after a letter warning that her application could take a year.

Mr Blunkett has admitted that he used the letter as an example when he ticked off immigration officials in April 2003 over the size of their backlog. The service was due to begin charging applicants £155 each. The then Home Secretary warned that long delays would be unacceptable.

A leaked memo, seen by The Independent on Sunday shows that the backlog continued growing after Ms Casalme had received permission to reside permanently in the UK in May 2003. The minutes of a private meeting held on 3 July 2003, reveal that Bill Jeffrey, the head of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, told his senior staff that the backlog was nine months long. Mr Jeffrey is one of the senior officials already interviewed by Sir Alan Budd.

An immigration source told the IoS that there was a "common culture" in the immigration service of fast-tracking visas at the request of ministers and diplomats.

"One person did say to me they could not see what all the fuss is about," said the senior immigration source. "It's not unusual for a message to come down that 'a minister wants something done about this'. All it really needs is for a minister or a diplomat to show an interest in a particular case. It's a cultural thing but if you are Home Secretary you have to be aware of the signals you are sending out."

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said last night: "The concern now is whether there was an attempted cover-up at the beginning of the Budd report. Either Sir Alan or some other authority will have to establish whether or not the civil servants and special advisers were complicit in an attempt to deceive the public."

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