The Sketch: Blunkett didn't know what we all did - that he had resigned

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This made it the more peculiar to go downstairs and see the minister himself waiting at the top of the escalator in Portcullis House. There are conventions surrounding private grief so we were forced to stay and intrude.

Most MPs behaved impeccably and ignored him; their faces settling into a thousand-yard stare as they passed him by. Only one stopped to exchange condolences.

It was a touching scene. She knew, but didn't know that he didn't. Only later did it become clear, if Mr Blunkett's account is to be believed, that he hadn't heard about his resignation. He had driven to Portcullis House as a minister. Tony Blair had assured him he wanted him to stay. So, he'd arrived bravely to brief the committee only to be told that the committee had all buzzed off. He was left standing there aimlessly, in full view of the world, not knowing that we all knew what he didn't yet know.

An aide joined them; they went upstairs and stood about in an open space, all of them bar Blunkett on their mobiles. Three of us journalists stood at a respectful distance until it began to get a bit pointless; I wandered down to ask what was going on.

"This is a private meeting," I was told sharply. "No questions. I'm not answering any questions!" Mr Blunkett said with commendable vigour. I was delighted to be manhandled by special adviser Matthew Doyle (that is, taken by the arm and pushed in the chest). It's so rare I find myself in the right that I didn't know how to put it without crowing and exulting. "Hang on," I found myself saying, "this is Parliament, you can't push people around here." Well, you know what I meant.

Soon after this, they gathered their ministerial tatters around them, marched off to their cars and went back to Downing Street where things were confused further.

Now, the fact that Tony Blair never lies is crucial. The Prime Minister was quoted by Sky as having "reluctantly accepted" Mr Blunkett's resignation.

But his resignation statement made clear that Blunkett had left Downing Street without offering his resignation, and I'm jiggered if he phoned it in while we were watching him in Portcullis House.

This suggests that Mr Blair reluctantly accepted Blunkett's resignation from someone other than Blunkett. The minister may have "been resigned" by someone like Gus O'Donnell. Or ... I don't know, frankly, but by someone other than Tony Blair. If this is the case, then Michael Howard (prize-winning performance, by the way) is right. Mr Blair is "in office but not in power". If Blunko's going has been precipitated by the mandarins then the Prime Minister has been gravely wounded.

"Does the Prime Minister really not see that this week marks the beginning of the final chapter of his administration?" Mr Howard asked in a rather quiet sort of, reasonable sort of voice, as though he might be genuinely interested in the reply.

The last of the Prime Minister's die-in-a-ditch allies is dead in a ditch, and the front bench looked on, as stony-faced as Mount Rushmore (if significantly less heroic).

PS: Linguists studying the resignation statement report that the ex-minister will not be selling his in-trust DNA shares after all. And "the trustees want to be left alone"! I bet they do.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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