The Sketch: An astonishing accident occurred. The cabinet minister drowned in whitewash

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The Independent Online

Eagerly, Detective Superintendent Sir Alan Budd surveyed the scene. "Well, well, what have we here?" he mused. A half-eaten corpse lay spreadeagled on the carpet, a pair of false teeth fitting snugly into one of the bite marks in the loin. A man dozed on the sofa in an after-dinner attitude.

The latter's left hand stroked a stomach that pulsed underneath straining shirt buttons. His right toyed with a bottle of pills marked For Over Indulgence In White Meat.

Hannibal Lecter (for it was he) stirred sleepily: "Anyone seen my teeth?"

"I haven't seen anything," the Super replied. "Who are you? What's this half-eaten person? These dentures with the name Lecter inscribed in them, whose are they? Is that a human femur in your mouth? Mind how you go, evening all!"

This is a perhaps laborious way of saying that Sir Alan's inquiry into the nanny's visa assembles much powerful evidence and yet refuses to draw conclusions others might think obvious.

By doing so, Sir Alan has put no obstacle in the way of David Blunkett's return to high office. And yet, this blameless report has already caused the minister to resign. This is the first time a minister has been drowned in whitewash. That really is an unfortunate accident.

Sir Alan's persistent refrain was: "I have been unable to link Mr Blunkett to ..." and "I could find no such action ..." and "I could not discover . . ." and "It doesn't imply any implication about his conduct ..." and most important "I have not been able to determine whether Mr Blunkett gave any instructions in relation to the case and, if so, what they were."

And yet, in the report, we have Sir Alan collecting and publishing faxes, e-mails and links of every sort. A paper trail that should exist doesn't exist.

The nanny's application was marked Restricted. Records were shredded (shredded! Immigration records!). He got a passport for her son. He got the nanny into the Austrian embassy after hours for a fast-track visa. And, of course, he got her indefinite leave to remain.

It was, so the report came back to his private office "sorted". Was Mr Blunkett driving it or not?

Well, what do you think? Mr Blunkett's defence - "I can't remember" - is no better than "The dog ate it" for homework undone.

Three years ago, the Sketch said Mr Blunkett's memory wasn't good enough to do without a notetaking machine and he said it was the "vilest thing" ever said about him in a newspaper.

Michael Howard characterised Tony Blair's government as "grubby". I asked him whether he'd helped Petronella Wyatt get a passport (as Woodrow Wyatt's diaries claimed). Textual analysis reveals his answer to be very unsatisfactory.

"It must be a load of rubbish because I don't remember any involvement in that." Blunkett's Defence? Surely not.