Unrepentant Blunkett is ready for a comeback

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett has the look of a man who knows he is going to be back in the Cabinet within a matter of days. Three months after his resignation, the former home secretary says he is ready to return to the front bench - though he knows he will have to fight for his place. He likens his predicament to that of a footballer, but is not saying which position he wants to play.

David Blunkett has the look of a man who knows he is going to be back in the Cabinet within a matter of days. Three months after his resignation, the former home secretary says he is ready to return to the front bench - though he knows he will have to fight for his place. He likens his predicament to that of a footballer, but is not saying which position he wants to play.

Mr Blunkett does not believe he has to redeem himself after his resignation last December. "I don't believe I have done anything wrong," he says, "but I clearly had to restore my health and strength, and show I was strong and was up for it. You have to show that you are at the cutting edge, a politician of the future, not the past. It would be totally inappropriate because there are a whole range of existing cabinet ministers and ministers of state, all of whom would like to be in the new Cabinet and we are all having to earn our spurs."

If Labour wins the election, Mr Blair is clearly ready to include Mr Blunkett in his new government, having said recently: "I would like to see him back." Peter Mandelson was out of office for 10 months before his return, Estelle Morris was out for eight months and Harriet Harman for three years.

Mr Blunkett told The Independent on his comeback tour of Britain that he believes he did nothing wrong and the official inquiry into events that led to his resignation found no evidence that he fast-tracked a visa for his lover's nanny. But the media interest in his love affair with Kimberly Quinn and the messy battle for access to their son cost him his cabinet seat as home secretary.

Ministers said there was no mechanism for someone like Mr Blunkett to take time out to sort out a tangled private life. "You can't have compassionate leave and run the country,'' said one senior colleague.

Mr Blunkett repays the compliment to Mr Blair by defending him against last week's attack by Brian Sedgemore, the Labour defector, saying: "To destroy a political party you need to destroy its best asset and the Labour Party's best asset is the Prime Minister ... backed by its second-best asset, its Chancellor."

Mr Blunkett started his tour in Shrewsbury where he went to school as a blind child, and met again the Labour couple who ran the local constituency party he first attended at the age of 16. Wherever he has gone, he has been warmly welcomed, apart from Renfrewshire, where a woman in the street told him: "I detest you." Mr Blunkett said: "It was very good for me. It punctured my ego. Everyone has been overwhelmingly warm. To get one person saying that does bring you down to earth."

Most people have avoided prying into his private grief over his affair with Ms Quinn, the American publisher of The Spectator magazine and his traumatic fight for access to their son. "I find most people are warm. It's all mostly very gentle. They ask have you recovered and are you over it? I say, 'Yes'."

His love affair with an American socialite has made him box office across the Atlantic and Mr Blunkett was followed on his campaign trail in Wimbledon by a reporter from The New York Times. "I get asked personal questions," he says. "But I won't answer them."

Last week, he was followed by Michael Crick for BBC Newsnight as he bought a bunch of flowers from a street stall. Mr Crick asked him did he have a 'fuchsia'? By way of reply, Mr Blunkett offered him a Prescott kiss.

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