The Quinns: The power couple who put differences behind them and fought back

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The Independent Online

Although cabinet ministers were quick to pay tribute to David Blunkett last night, there was a conspicuous silence from his former mistress, Kimberly Quinn.

Although cabinet ministers were quick to pay tribute to David Blunkett last night, there was a conspicuous silence from his former mistress, Kimberly Quinn.

Described as "an uncommonly alarming woman" by Max Hastings, former editor of the Evening Standard, she will now be the target of a bitter paternity suit from the former Home Secretary.

The background of Mrs Quinn, whose affair with the Home Secretary led to his downfall, could not contrast more starkly with the deprived upbringing of her former lover.

She was, in her own words "a New York debutante who didn't even know how to use a washing-machine". In America, she sometimes went to work in the morning in her "ballgown" after a night out partying.

Mrs Quinn's father, Marvin Solomon, made his money from radiation detection equipment and, after studying for a degree in British political and social history at Vassar College, the vivacious young woman went to work as a secretary on Cosmopolitan magazine.

Described as supremely confident and ruthlessly self-advancing, she quickly moved on to Women's Day where she wrote "household hints and child-rearing tips for women". Later she edited a trade magazine called Gifts and Decorative Accessories, while continuing to circulate on the party circuit.

Mrs Quinn, 43,who is said to have been attracted to men with status, moved to Britain in 1987 with her first husband, Michael Fortier, a millionaire banker when he was transferred to London. He later said she had had "a string of affairs" during their marriage, one of whom was with Stephen Quinn, the publisher who later became her husband.

Michael Fortier was scathing about her social ambitions. "Even when she is lying in her grave she'll be thinking if there is anybody more interesting she could have lying next to her," he said.

One of Mr Fortier's relatives commented that although the family loved her at first they realised swiftly she was "someone who is nice to your face but hateful behind your back".

In London, Mrs Fortier found her way on to the party circuit where she proved a formidable networker. "Her idea of a good week would involve two or three cocktail parties a night. She would be wanting to introduce me to the next politician or movie star and I would just find it all incredibly false and boring,"Mr Fortier said.

But in addition to her lively social life, Mrs Quinn was also busy advancing her career.

She went to work at GQ were she said she was "very annoying", "always in the editor's office with ideas about the magazine". Then she applied for the job as publisher of The Spectator, which she said she was "determined" to have. While there she managed to help boost the magazine's circulation and pushed it into profit.

It was there that she met David Blunkett, who she is understood to have fallen head over heals in love with her. On their first meeting Mrs Quinn is said to have told Mr Blunkett that she had always wondered what it would be like to sleep with a blind man.

Mrs Quinn's clear attraction to men with status led to her starting an affair with the former Home Secretary whom she met two months after marrying Stephen Quinn. She has been photographed accompanying him to social events, and went with him to the farewell party of the veteran BBC journalist Sue MacGregor. She even went on holiday with him to Corfu, and the young son who Mr Blunkett believes strongly is his.

Even after the affair became public and doubts were cast on the paternity of Mrs Quinn's child, her husband, an Irishman 17 years her senior, stood by his wife loyally, even though he had been publicly cuckolded.

The long-suffering Mr Quinn, 60, the Condé Nast publisher, is a multimillionaire who after an impoverished Irish childhood moved vertically through the ranks of the publishing world after starting in advertising. He has been cast in the role of saint during the affair and has emerged with dignity after being cruelly wronged.

The other character in the saga, Filipino nanny Leoncia Casalme, whose visa sparked the political storm triggering Mr Blunkettt's resignation, has always insisted she had done nothing wrong.