Sunday, December 05, 2004

Blunkett in love: the bit they've missed

Among the portfolio of accusations against David Blunkett, there is one I suspect is the most significant of the lot but hasn't got the ink it deserves. In accordance with the best Labour traditions, of course, it's also one of the matters that the Home Office's self-investigation doesn't cover. Mind you, the Sunday Torygraph did get it today - if you can bear it, the link is here (use Bugmenot if it don't work). Now, I suspect that the allegation that he pulled rank to secure a visa for his lady's nanny quicker than usual will probably die. A civil servant or two will be sacrificed and a ton of waffle dumped on the issue like sand on an oil spill. Blunkers will be helped by the fact that his department tend to be incompetent in both directions - visas are known to take either years or no time at all to process - and that a policy in place at the time fits the story. The rest (railway ticket, lifts in official car) is trivial.

But the killer might be the allegation that, on the 13th of August, Blunkett's principal private secretary, Jonathan Sedgwick, and the Home Office's head of news, John Toker, took part in a meeting with Mrs. Quinn and her solicitors. It is claimed that they attempted to get her to sign a statement that her marriage was "over in all but name". Now, if verified this is dynamite - Blunkett would have outed himself as a total bastard, and more importantly one who ordered civil servants to do his dirty work. Non-UK readers may not realise the full significance of this. In Britain, the divide between politicians and officials, and even more the impartiality of the civil service, is considered very important (not least by civil servants). It has also been a difficult issue for this government. Hence the inclusion in the government's denial of the apparently ridiculous point that Sedgwick and Toker were "in their lunch hour" - that is, not being paid for their time by the state. If the only one involved had been his private secretary, Jonathan Sedgwick, this might have been excusable. But the departmental head of news's involvement implies that the Home Office had an official line on this. It makes it a political matter.

If this turns out to be more than spin - the Torygraph goes so far as to claim that the solicitors have a detailed record of the meeting - this could catapult the whole thing into Hutton country.

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