|David Blunkett (top) and Tony Blair
London, Nov. 2: A lonely man, made lonelier by his blindness, searching for love ' that is probably the kindest way to describe the private wilderness of David Blunkett, a senior Labour politician who resigned from the cabinet today, the second time he has been forced to do so in less than a year.
Blunkett, who resigned last December as home secretary because he was found guilty of fast tracking a visa application submitted by his former lover’s nanny, resigned today as work and pensions secretary.
This is because he was found to have broken guidelines which prohibit a minister from taking on an outside job within two years of leaving office without the permission of an organisation called the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.
Blunkett admitted today he had made a mistake in not getting the required clearance.
“I’m guilty of a mistake and I’m paying the price of it,” he said at a press conference he called after Tony Blair had accepted his resignation.
There is no triumphalism even in Tory ranks at Blunkett’s resignation, even though his departure will weaken the Prime Minister who depended on the bluff Yorkshireman from Sheffield.
But questions are starting to be asked about the mysterious figure of Tariq Siddiqui, described as a flamboyant, millionaire businessman who introduced Sally Anderson, an attractive 29-year-old blonde, to Blunkett, who is twice her age.
It transpires that Siddiqui’s wife, Lucy, herself an attractive blonde, is a director of DNA Bioscience, where Blunkett bought shares worth '15,000 and briefly became a director in the period between his resignation as home secretary last year and his return to the cabinet as works and pensions secretary when Blair was returned to power in June.
It has been disclosed that Blunkett had taken on two jobs without seeking permission from the committee. One was the directorship at DNA Bioscience, which operated in the area supervised by the work and pensions ministry. DNA Bioscience specialises in providing paternity tests although Blunkett used a rival company when he was battling his former lover, Kimberly Quinn, over the paternity of her two children last year.
The other job was as a paid adviser to a Jewish charity, Organisation for Research and Technology charity, for which he was being paid between '15,000 and '20,000.
When Blunkett first met Anderson, he told her that she had not yet been “blessed with children” because she had not found the right person. In a serious tone, he added: “Maybe that’s where I might come in.”
The couple’s first meeting was a blind date over dinner at Annabel’s, an exclusive nightclub in Mayfair. It was arranged by his friend, Siddiqui, who has apparently known Anderson since she was 16.
According to her friends, Yorkshire-born Anderson and the minister hit it off immediately. She overheard Blunkett ask Siddiqui: “Does she look as good as she sounds'”
Blair told the Commons today that his close ally “goes, in my view, with no stain of impropriety against him whatsoever”.
“I would like to say that whatever mistakes my Right Honourable Friend has made, I have always believed and believe now he is a decent and honourable man,” the Prime Minister said.
Blunkett said that correspondence he had in March with the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, Lord Mayhew, had led him to the erroneous belief that it was a voluntary matter whether he sought the committee’s advice or not. “Was I at fault not writing to the committee'” he asked.
“Yes, I was. It was the same fault on three occasions arising from the same misunderstanding by me. I have to take the consequences of that, which is why I am standing down today.” But he added: “Did I do anything wrong in buying the holding in DNA Bioscience' No I didn’t. Did I declare that holding' Yes I did.”
The shares were put into a trust for his three grown up sons when he returned to government in June. There was some sympathy today from Tory ranks for Blunkett.
Tory MP Chris Grayling, the shadow leader of the Commons, said: “In his private life he has had a rotten time in the last few months. It is difficult to sit here feeling glad about it even though I have been partly responsible for what has happened.”