Blunkett pleads guilty to Prescott's arrogance charge

Click to follow
Indy Politics

David Blunkett admitted yesterday he had been "arrogant" to criticise the performance of several of his cabinet colleagues as he issued another grovelling apology to his fellow ministers.

David Blunkett admitted yesterday he had been "arrogant" to criticise the performance of several of his cabinet colleagues as he issued another grovelling apology to his fellow ministers.

The Home Secretary's declarations that he could carry out "business as usual" were undermined when John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, accused him of "arrogance" and said he "fundamentally disagreed" with his withering assessment of other ministers.

Mr Prescott's intervention was significant as it showed cabinet-level support for the Home Secretary is waning.

Although Tony Blair is still fighting to keep Mr Blunkett in his post, the Cabinet's hostility could count against him after the former Treasury adviser, Sir Alan Budd, publishes his report into allegations that the Home Secretary fast-tracked a residence application by the nanny of his former lover, Kimberly Quinn. Mr Prescott is a pivotal figure in the Cabinet and Mr Blair would take him very seriously if he judged that Mr Blunkett should resign.

A biography of Mr Blunkett published today says he believes he inherited "a giant mess" at the Home Office from Jack Straw; that Charles Clarke went "soft" after succeeding him at the Department for Education; that Tessa Jowell is "weak"; that Mr Blair tolerates more from Gordon Brown than he should, and portrays himself as the only minister ready to "take on" the Chancellor.

Mr Blunkett also told his biographer, Stephen Pollard, that Mr Prescott resented his "Two Jags" image and envied the Home Secretary's praise from the right-wing press and penchant for "saying it as it is".

Mr Prescott reflected the anger of Mr Blunkett's victims when he told BBC Radio 4: "I fundamentally disagree with his judgements on his colleagues. To be fair to David, he has apologised personally and was honest enough to confess to a certain amount of arrogance in his conclusions."

A contrite Mr Blunkett took Mr Prescott's counter-attack on the chin yesterday. His spokesman said: "This is perfectly fair comment, which David entirely accepts."

There are also signs that Mr Blunkett is losing the support of MPs. Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister, said the Home Secretary was not indispensable, and said the Prime Minister "may very well decide he can afford more to lose David Blunkett than to keep him inside the Government".

The Tory defence spokesman, Gerald Howarth, said that Mr Blunkett should resign as he had undermined official Home Office policy on marriage. "He has very publicly tried to undermine another man's marriage. What message is that sending out to society?"

* The Conservatives will support the government over the introduction of identity cards it was announced last night. Michael Howard decided to back the Government ID cards Bill after being warned that opposing it would lead to accusations they are soft on crime and asylum. But the decision will anger many in the Conservative party who see ID cards as a breach of individual freedom.

Prescott's golden gaffes,

pages 12 & 13 Steve Richards, page 31

Comments