Labour MPs greet the departure with mixture of sadness and delight

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Indy Politics

Sadness over David Blunkett's personal tragedy was mixed with barely concealed glee among some Labour MPs that the most authoritarian Home Secretary in decades was forced to resign last night.

Mr Blunkett was told by Tony Blair last night: "You are leaving Government with your integrity intact. You were a force for good in British politics."

But his backbench critics were dancing on Mr Blunkett's political grave. One Labour MP said: "He was a rotten Home Secretary and had become an electoral liability."

Alan Simpson, a leading member of the Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said: "It is sad to see someone hounded out for his private life, but if it had been because of the measures to abolish jury trials, the obsession with ID cards, the anti-terrorist legislation and the attempt to create a climate of fear, I would say it was a fair cop."

The Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "This is obviously a personal tragedy for David Blunkett and his resignation had, sadly, become inevitable. David Blunkett was one of the most authoritarian figures to have been Home Secretary in recent decades."

Chris Woodhead, the former chief inspector of schools, who clashed with Mr Blunkett at the education department, said: "I am not surprised. He went before he was pushed. Looking at it objectively in terms of policies, I don't feel that much respect for him."

The chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, Glen Smyth, said: "His personal life led him to make errors of judgement, and he has paid a high price. This was a very able Home Secretary who was doing a good job in one of the most difficult political positions in the country."

Ann Widdecombe, former shadow Home Secretary, said: "And all I can say is I hope they remember on the Labour benches how they gloated over us. It is a massive blow to the Prime Minister."

The shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said Mr Blunkett had "done the right thing" in resigning. "These have been a miserable few weeks and I suspect months for him, particularly after the allegations surfaced," he said.

"He did the right thing. I feel very sorry for him. He is a tough opponent and a remarkable man. It is a sad day for him."

In Sheffield, the Labour councillor Ian Saunders, one of many to have served on the local council with Mr Blunkett after the departing Home Secretary's election as its youngest leader 24 years ago, described him as "a man of utter political conviction, a man of total integrity". He said: "It's a crying shame. I've known David for many years and I think he has been witch-hunted by the tabloid press."

Another city councillor, Peter Price, who has known the MP for more than 30 years, said: "I'm very saddened. I've known David for a long, long time and he's the most straightforward man you could ever meet.

"He reflected the views of all of the working-class people he represented for so long and I think most people round here will be overwhelmingly saddened by what has happened.

"It is a great loss for the city he's had to do this and for the region."

But at the bar of the Crown Hotel, in Mr Blunkett's constituency, Tony Slack, 64, said: "It's about time the politicians set an example."

"Love affairs are something you try to keep to yourself. Sounds to me as if he was jumped before he was pushed. I've never seen him here since his council days and I can't say I'm sorry."

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