The woman who spurned Blunkett returns to work

When she last inhabited for any length of time her second-floor room at The Spectator's Doughty Street offices, Mrs Quinn had a mere walk-on part on the London media scene. Today she is a fully fledged national character, thanks to a baby; exposure as a two-time adulteress with the then Home Secretary and the magazine's wine correspondent, Simon Hoggart; various legal manoeuvrings; and satirical portrayals of her on television and the London stage. Hence the rather ambivalent feelings of colleagues as, on Thursday, they anticipated her imminent return.

"She hasn't been missed at all," said one. "The only thing we're waiting for is to see whether it's 'victim Kimberly' or 'kick-ass Kimberly' who comes through the door."

Mrs Quinn has been on maternity leave for almost a year. During that time, her office has been sealed. "She had a big Yale lock put on," explains a colleague. "Everything's still in there - the tattered US flag, the pictures of her with her husband and little William Blunkett, the creepy music box with the Twin Towers inside. It's like Miss Havisham's house."

No welcome-back party was arranged on Thursday night. When a colleague was asked if anyone would be glad to see Kimberly Quinn again, there was a pause. "The car company," began the eventual answer, "the bike company, the flower company ..."

In recent months the Quinns have started to venture out into London society again. In April, nearly three months after the birth of their son Lorcan - whom paternity tests proved was not the former home secretary's child - the couple appeared at the Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year Awards at Claridge's. Despite reports that the family might move to America to escape all the unwelcome attention, the Quinns have stayed in England, dividing their time between their London house in Mayfair and a country retreat in the Rutland village of Wing.

Just over a week ago, the couple were to be seen at a reception held by the Ruinart champagne house at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens. Kimberly, once nicknamed "Network South East" for her determination to bend the ears of the rich and powerful, was very quiet. Her husband Stephen seemed cheerier. It was noted, however, that his answers to any journalistic queries were limited to praising the excellence of the bubbly on offer.

Then on Thursday afternoon, The Spectator's publisher returned for the first time to the magazine's offices. Afterwards, one colleague gave an upbeat account of her reappearance. "Kimbo's on cracking form," he said. "She was elegant, soignée, rosy-cheeked. She's lost weight, and seems happy and confident."

Asked if the delicate matter of The Spectator allowing Channel 4 to take a full-page advert for A Very Social Secretary came up, he replied: "There was no discussion of that. If Channel 4 want to pay us, there could be no higher purpose for their money. No one here will watch it. Anyway, it's on some channel [More 4] that nobody gets, isn't it?"

Such optimism seems misplaced, given that most of the staff on even so venerable a publication as The Spectator are capable of working out how to receive digital television. And given that large numbers of them happily turned up to the King's Head Theatre in Islington to watch the travails of Kimberly and Blunkett in Toby Young's play Who's the Daddy?

As for the rest of The Spectator staff, they will be glad when all this is finally laid to rest. "We've got very used to all the attention," said one. "But we often felt the tabloids knew more than we did."

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