Phillip Hodson: Is Blunkett's tragedy a tale of rights or revenge?

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What's missing from our understanding of the fall of David Blunkett is an emotional handicap that he shares with thousands of fathers who convert bereavement into litigious obsession.

What's missing from our understanding of the fall of David Blunkett is an emotional handicap that he shares with thousands of fathers who convert bereavement into litigious obsession.

It could almost be described as a kind of blindness: the problem is what he and others in his shoes "cannot see" about their emotional and psychological predicament.

The traditional manly script, in David Blunkett's case over-written with Methodism on Sheffield steel, says we must always advance towards our objects with a single-minded determination. Retreat, for such men, is unthinkable. I would earnestly and passionately beg Mr Blunkett to try to see the situation from a wider, less obtusely masculine perspective.

The harsh fact is that all love ends in some form of sadness and bereavement. But for men who have been socialised on Spartan lines, like Mr Blunkett at the Royal National College for the Blind, such sorrow tends to be managed by the stiff upper lip. When love is withdrawn, such individuals try to gain power over the rejecter. Emotional rebuffs are regarded as challenges to be countered by resistance, retaliation or even revenge. A legal term for what they seek is their "rights".

So what "should" men like Mr Blunkett really be feeling? Well, he could say factual things like: "I was horribly played with then dumped"; "I have been cynically used by an obviously damaged female predator"; "Given her infertile marriage, perhaps she unconsciously sought out my potency and was reckless to get pregnant".

But much more to the emotional point would be admissions like: "She broke my heart. I had lived so long in a desert and almost given up hope of renewed love. I actually opened up myself for the first time in my life. She abandoned me."

For David Blunkett's genuine grief I could not feel greater sympathy. But is it because he hides these feelings, or thinks they will somehow overwhelm or un-man him, that he will not give them due release? Perhaps he imagines if he goes further down the "soft" road of accepting pain and depression he will not survive? And so is driven into becoming the opposite of a caring father, as are so many men in similar circumstances.

The overwhelming fact is that, given the mother's rooted objection to a continued personal relationship with him, his only remaining obligation to his (claimed) offspring lies in providing information on his paternity and, if necessary, money.

But the children's interests would be best served by his public silence. Any attempt to muscle in on their lives will cost them. Children need to oblige everyone and cannot take sides: they end up like pastry rolled so thin it crumbles. He should try to identify with the child inside himself that has suffered, not the selfish adult who pursues.

The writer is a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psycho-therapy. www.bacp.co.uk

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