Stephen Pollard: Can Blunkett still hope to return to the Cabinet?

It's a Götterdämmerung of spin, in which both sides are engulfed by forces whipped up by themselves

Share

Speak to those close to Tony Blair and they will all tell you the same thing. Come 6 May, when Mr Blair appoints his new Cabinet, there will be one name returning to the front bench: David Blunkett.

Speak to those close to Tony Blair and they will all tell you the same thing. Come 6 May, when Mr Blair appoints his new Cabinet, there will be one name returning to the front bench: David Blunkett.

Given the Prime Minister's continuing public support for Mr Blunkett, it was a reasonable assumption that he would be back. Almost everything that has happened since his resignation has reinforced that notion. As a television and radio performer, the Government lacks - with the exception of John Reid - anyone who comes close to Mr Blunkett's persuasiveness. Mr Blair has repeatedly said that Mr Blunkett left office "without a stain on his character". And the handling of the anti-terror legislation by his successor, Charles Clarke, has been - to be charitable - chaotic, showing just what the Government is missing without Mr Blunkett.

Without fanfare, he has already taken the first steps back. He has spent the past few weeks visiting Labour-held marginal constituencies campaigning on behalf of sitting MPs. His reception by the public has confirmed that he remains immensely popular with voters and is still a prime asset for the Labour Party.

But the operative words are "almost everything". This weekend's re-ignition of the story is the worst possible thing which could have happened to Mr Blunkett's chances of making a return to the Cabinet. The Quinns have claimed that Mr Blunkett has been briefing the press with gossip as to the paternity of Mrs Quinn's second child and her further affairs. A look at the facts, and the principle of cui bono, ought to show how preposterous such allegations are.

Mr Blunkett has never claimed to be the father of Kimberly Quinn's second child. He thought he might be, since their affair was still ongoing at the time of the boy's conception, but once he realised that she was sleeping with at least one other man, he was aware that he might well not be the father.

From day one of their affair becoming public, nearly all the briefing, in my opinion, has come from Mrs Quinn's side. A sign of how skilful a manipulator of the media she has been is the idea which took hold that she was a helpless ingénue, caught up in a maelstrom out of her control and the victim of a politician with powerful media connections. This from a woman who is publisher of The Spectator, is married to the publisher of Vogue, and whose best friend is Julia Hobsbawm, one of the country's top PRs!

There has rarely been a better illustration of how both to prolong, and to kill, a news story. The media had a field day in the final few months of last year when there were regular briefings. The result: almost daily news stories. But once the briefings began to backfire on Mrs Quinn, in the final stages of her second pregnancy, her camp stopped. And so the story fell out of the newspapers.

Look at the coverage of the birth of her second child on 2 February. The newspapers reported the event itself, but since neither Mrs Quinn nor Mr Blunkett was, even indirectly through "friends", talking, the story could go nowhere. The result: one day of purely factual coverage of the birth of her son. And since then, nothing.

Until now, and the news that he is not the father of her child. In theory, that too should have been a one-day wonder - a story for the record, ending further speculation about Mr Blunkett. The news that a private citizen is not having a child by a politician is, after all, hardly a scandal.

But this is no ordinary story. It is a kind of Götterdämmerung of spin, in which both sides are engulfed and destroyed by forces which have been whipped up by their own actions and which they cannot subsequently quell.

Mr Blunkett has been going about the business of rebuilding his career, issuing a dignified statement on Friday designed to end speculation about his paternity of Mrs Quinn's second child and making no further comment.

The response from the Quinns? Instead of silence, or a short press statement to kill off the story, they make, in door-step interviews and through their "friends", wild allegations and bizarre comments about Mr Blunkett's supposed press briefings and gossip as to the baby's real father. As media professionals, they must know the only possible effect of their claims: giving the story legs.

Whether or not Mr Blunkett will return to office depends on two factors. If Mr Blair wins a large majority in May, then he will have the political strength to bring back a minister who remains popular even now. But there remains the possibility that the Quinns will drag out the story for as long as they can, knowing that with every mention, his chances of a return are reduced.

That is the context in which this weekend's allegations need to be judged. Cui bono? The man who wants all mention of the Quinns to end, so he can focus on politics once more? Or the couple who would seem to want nothing more than to destroy him? Have a guess.

The author's 'David Blunkett' is published by Hodder and Stoughton

React Now

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

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition