Home Secretary quits as inquiry finds e-mails discussing nanny's visa

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Indy Politics

A tearful David Blunkett resigned last night over allegations that he helped the nanny of his former lover Kimberly Quinn obtain a visa, and said he had "sacrificed" his political career for the love of their two-year-old son.

A tearful David Blunkett resigned last night over allegations that he helped the nanny of his former lover Kimberly Quinn obtain a visa, and said he had "sacrificed" his political career for the love of their two-year-old son.

The Home Secretary jumped before the conclusion of the official inquiry, which is due to report next week on the claim that he fast-tracked the application. His decision came on a dramatic day in which he suffered a collapse of support among senior cabinet ministers and Labour MPs ­ a development which left Mr Blunkett needing a clean bill of health from the inquiry.

Amid feverish speculation at Westminster that Mr Blunkett would be forced out after losing the confidence of ministers and backbenchers, he quit over the allegation that he intervened to help Leoncia Casalme win the right for leave to remain in Britain indefinitely.

The Home Secretary judged that he would have to quit on Tuesday when Sir Alan Budd, who is conducting the inquiry, told him he had uncovered an exchange of faxes and e-mails between Mr Blunkett's office and the Immigration and Nationality Department after Ms Casalme was told her application could take a year to process. It was later approved in only 19 days. Mr Blunkett insisted that he had no personal recollection of dealing with the matter and predicted he would be cleared by Sir Alan.

But he said he would not "hide behind" civil servants and accepted full responsibility himself for any "perception" that the application had been speeded up. He admitted a memo was sent back to the Home Office that said "no favours, but slightly quicker".

Mr Blunkett said in television interviews that he had resigned for the sake of his two-year-old son after the "worst" weeks of his life. Mrs Quinn has not accepted he is the father and Mr Blunkett, who is taking legal action to secure access to the boy, said: "I don't regret the decision that I took in September which was that I would not walk into the sunset as requested; I wouldn't abandon my fourth and youngest son."

He said he realised three months ago that "if I was ever to see my youngest son again, if I was ever going to hold him as I did as a baby in my arms, there were going to be consequences". He added: "I hadn't fully grasped the enormity of those consequences. But in time people are going to understand the enormity of what I have been through, what I was prepared to sacrifice for that little boy, along with my three older sons."

He asked: "What sort of human being, what sort of man, what sort of politician, would actually put their career and put their public persona before doing what a decent human being would want to do? I don't think we want politicians like that, and if people do, then they don't want me."

He hit out at the "lies" that had been told and denied he had leaked stories about his former lover. He said: "I would not bring the world down on my head or my little boy's head".

In a poignant aside referring to his relationship with Mrs Quinn, whom he tried to persuade to marry him, he said: "I misunderstood what we had."

The personal tragedy for Mr Blunkett is also a blow for Tony Blair, who backed his fight to remain in office. The loss of such a loyal heavyweight is bound to fuel speculation about Mr Blair's future. There were growing doubts among Labour MPs last night that he would serve the bulk of a third term, as he hopes to do.

After the 2001 election, Mr Blair told four ministers in key "delivery" departments ­ Stephen Byers, Estelle Morris, Alan Milburn and Mr Blunkett ­ that he wanted them to stay in their posts until the next election. They have now all resigned from those jobs. In a hasty reshuffle last night, the Prime Minister promoted two Blairites in a move which was seen as bolstering his position against the man most likely to succeed him ­ the Chancellor Gordon Brown.

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, takes over at the Home Office and Ruth Kelly, a 36-year-old mother of four, was promoted to the Cabinet as Education Secretary from her post as deputy to Alan Milburn. That job was taken over by another Blairite, David Miliband, the Schools Standards minister.

Mr Blunkett admitted his decision had been taken in conjunction with Mr Blair but denied the Prime Minister had asked him to quit. "We kind of came to it together," he said. "We sort of gave each other a hug."