Yes, I judge Blunkett by my experience

One writer warns that women like myself can't be trusted to comment because we were once dumped ourselves
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The Independent Online

I went to see the RSC's stupendous production of Hamlet on Saturday night at the Albery. Toby Stephens is the most affecting Hamlet I have ever seen. One reason - he communicates the pure grief of marital betrayal through the eyes of a previously innocent young man, weeping like a boy at times. In today's world he would be described as a big girl's blouse.

I went to see the RSC's stupendous production of Hamlet on Saturday night at the Albery. Toby Stephens is the most affecting Hamlet I have ever seen. One reason - he communicates the pure grief of marital betrayal through the eyes of a previously innocent young man, weeping like a boy at times. In today's world he would be described as a big girl's blouse.

In our kingdom, heaving with rot as it is, we would be told that privacy is a sacrosanct right which must be extended to the new King, Claudius, and his easily seduced queen (previously his sister-in-law), that these accusations of murder most foul come from Hamlet's understandable post-traumatic stress syndrome, that the personal and political can be kept apart so that they never twist and snarl and tangle and knot. An inquiry would be arranged (and I mean arranged) to vindicate the powerful king with the expectation that this would placate the population, who would only thereafter be exasperated by any ferment kept alive by nosy, mean, cynical journalists.

The Home Secretary has not personally murdered anyone, but his story would surely have gripped Shakespeare and other great writers who have been inspired to write on the inner dilemmas and flaws of influential leaders, the consequences of which can never be confined, not even by the most mighty ruler in the world. Bill Clinton comes to mind.

This much we do know, for sure. A ferociously ambitious blind man who comes from a tough background, emerges as one of the most astute and populist politicians in the state. He has one family, gets divorced, then years on finds himself alone, lonely too by all accounts. Then he falls headlong for a bewitching woman, a publisher of a high Tory magazine and recently remarried to another publisher.

They start an affair and a child is born, another conceived, fathers at that point not yet determined. She reprioritises. Decides to move herself and babies back into the marriage she has neglected. He goes demented and wants her back, their love reinstated, the children he claims as his. But she has "moved on", words beloved of New Labour, and he will not let go.

Now he has gone to court - as she lies apparently distraught and unwell in hospital, seven months pregnant. He has won the right to pursue his paternity rights of access in court. He is already probably seen as a potential Batman by Fathers 4 Justice.

The Home Secretary, who has shown such contempt for the language and principles of rights, suddenly can focus on nothing beyond his own entitlements. Blunkett has obviously spent much time with the toddler and loves him deeply, but to force this issue now shows him to be obsessed to a degree. His love for the child should make him stop and think - what good is it doing a two-year-old to witness his mother and his legal father emotionally overwrought as they war with a politician?

The grubby sheets and nappies are being washed and dried in the streets and the public is more hooked on this reality show than I'm a Celebrity ...

So they should be. There is so much going on here of so-called public interest, where does one begin?

Imagine that these two, Dave and Kim, were unemployed, living on benefits. She smokes, chews gum, wears very short skirts and plastic boots. She wants to leave him. He gambles, has several children by other women, and can get impossibly possessive and jealous. We can imagine what Mrs Quinn and Mr Blunkett would say about them. "Feckless, irresponsible", they would opine, trash folk incapable of imagining the results of their actions, never heard of safe sex or worried for a moment about the poor children.

What about Mrs Quinn's poor little rich children? Brought into this world knowingly by people who should have and could have thought better of what this will mean for them. The courts will decide on access and child-rearing decisions, but unlike other family law cases there is no confidentiality possible any more. For the rest of their lives all the people involved will have to survive tensions, demands, rows, unspoken hatreds, and there will be long-term effects which nobody can predict.

We once had a name for such explosive shenanigans in the political world - "sleaze". But no more. Once the handsome prince Tony had saved us from the wicked witch named Margaret, New Labour spun scrutiny and talk of sleaze out of existence. Yet sleaze has reappeared since 1997, threatening to engulf the party which promised so much better.

Examples include highly suspect party donations, smiles for cash, flats in Bristol, conmen, links with gambling big businesses and tobacco companies, the don't-mention-the-war war, and other objectionable domestic and international dealings which, had they accumulated under the Tories, would have seen them off.

Do you remember those old times? Under Mrs Thatcher, Tory men in the inner circle caught having affairs and fathering children with their lovers had hell to pay in the Commons and in Cabinet. How Cecil Parkinson must envy Blunkett and the support he is getting.

The most shocking discovery for many of us over the Robin Cook affair and now the Blunkett saga was that the Prime Minister knew about what was going on all along. With Blunkett, Tony Blair has left one of the most sensitive jobs in government in the hands of a man consumed with frenzied love for a married woman, a Tory, whose values are anathema to New Labour. Presumably.

Even now when New Labour is wearing conservatism with panache, accessorised with hubris which claims and gets immunity from censure for all New Labour apparatchiks and policies, we are asked once more to trust Blair to know absolutely that Blunkett's volatility in love will never affect his jobs and decisions.

No reason to take comfort in such guarantees. We don't know that; can't know that when the passions are engaged as they are in this scandal. As Ophelia says: "We know what we are but not what we may be". Yet a whole line of commentators and politicians seem to have no trouble reiterating these assurances. Even more alarmingly, some of them have turned on those of us who remain highly critical of both these infamous lovers, mainly out of concern for the children.

One Blair loyalist warns that women like myself or Margaret Cook cannot be trusted to comment fairly on this drama because we were once dumped by our ex-husbands. All we do is look at ourselves in the mirror and sob bitterly. Being women of course how can we have the detachment he knows Blunkett will always have?

He didn't, by the way suggest that philanderers like Boris Johnson and Rod Liddle would also be tainted by their emotions when writing their columns on love and marriage. But yes, I have always brought my experience to the subject and declared it too - unlike "objective" hacks who are so wedded to New Labour that they allow their journalistic and moral judgements to be directed by that loyalty.

And that loyalty will ensure that the Home Secretary is safe in his job and fighting savagely for his paternity rights.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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