A tragic hero in the real sense, a great man sunk by a destructive flaw

Share
Related Topics

Withal he is a man, and what a tragic fall. I do hope that David Hare won't make a narrative play of modern politics of it. For this is a classic Shakespearean story of a tragic flaw in a great man's person affecting events. It has a touch of the Othello, except that she killed him, viciously. "He loved not wisely, but too well", indeed.

Withal he is a man, and what a tragic fall. I do hope that David Hare won't make a narrative play of modern politics of it. For this is a classic Shakespearean story of a tragic flaw in a great man's person affecting events. It has a touch of the Othello, except that she killed him, viciously. "He loved not wisely, but too well", indeed.

Blunkett was head and shoulders above most of the mediocrities, pygmies or placemen on the two front benches. A real man, warts and all, although I disagreed profoundly with the rigidity about measuring standards that he inherited and strengthened in the school curriculum when he was at Education (so standards had to be produced that could be measured). And I disliked his tough-guy law and order measures at the Home Office.

But he was not playing electoral politics like some of the Prime Minister's advisers. He was freely reflecting the gut feelings of the Sheffield working-class, not just of his youth but those, despite his recent careless high flying, to whom he is still close. Guardian liberals find "the people" a problem. I do, more cautiously.

The man is to be respected greatly, even despite these two big failings. They were of the tough Blunkett; but I also knew the tender Blunkett - else I would not have served him since 1997. But I served his tender side by keeping my eyes riveted on two particular tasks and not arguing with him on all those other things that everybody else, the lawyers, the educationalists and all, argued against him with more knowledge than I.

He asked me to chair an Advisory Group to bring citizenship for the first time into the English school curriculum. I did not ask him. He knew of my views on this and gave me and my committee a remarkably free rein. The result was not boring old factual civics, but a curriculum to incite and require participation in the school and the community and a discussion of real issues. He egged us on.

A contradiction to the rigidity of the rest of the curriculum? Yes. Puzzling? Yes. But these are the two sides of the man, the tough and the tender.

When he got to the Home Office he asked me to chair an Advisory Group on Language and Citizenship education for immigrants. I disliked the far too tough treatment of asylum-seekers, and said so on platforms. But he was genuine and passionate that those accepted as refugees, and also the number of those coming in with work permits, driven by the needs of our economy, should be helped to settle into Britain, practically and compassionately.

There is a restrictive rule in the Department of Education that free language tuition under adult literacy schemes cannot benefit immigrants until they have been in the country three years.

On the advice of my committee he strove to remove this, but failed: the Treasury did not come up with the additional money.

Policy or personality? - so close to those events, but I know not. The Scottish Parliament removed the rule in Scotland where the obvious priority is to help immigrants towards integration at the earliest possible moment, and it is also a priority to help women learn English so that they can integrate with the wider society, whether from home or in the workplace.

Also in the Home Office, Blunkett built up and enthused an Active Communities Directorate who try hard, even if under-funded, to reach down to help community groups and to teach citizenship skills. He has himself written two pamphlets on civil renewal, with more than a dash of communitarianism about them.

All this the press has missed. They only see the tough Blunkett. I worked with the tender Blunkett, concentrating entirely, even when meeting him privately, on our common obsession with active citizenship. And he is tough and tender personally. Too tender and trusting to a conniving and confused woman of the world, and now tough for his parental rights - at such a cost.

He will return - too powerful a voice to be back-benched for ever. He had to resign. It was a grievous fault. But those on both front benches who say that it is a fault so great as to render him unfit for high office ever again, they are opportunistic, sanctimonious Pharisees. Most of them look as if they have never been in love. Most of them look quite unlovable.

Professor Sir Bernard Crick is author of 'In Defence of Politics' and 'George Orwell: A Life'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware last-minute promises. Vote Yes.

Sol Zanetti
 

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week