David Blunkett: the ultimate irony
The home secretary’s political position has until very recently seemed impregnable: he has even been mentioned as a possible future party leader and prime minister. His ascendancy has seemed to be quite unaffected by an unrivalled record of illiberal measures designed, apparently, to carve away, slice by slice, our ancient and hard-won liberties. He has taken and used powers to imprison foreigners indefinitely and without trial on the basis of mere suspicion of their possible future behaviour; he has claimed the right to rely on evidence obtained abroad by torture; he has abridged or abolished the rights to trial by jury, to remain silent when accused, to be immune from prosecution twice for the same offence, and not to have previous convictions revealed to juries before they consider their verdicts. He has sought to intimidate the occasionally liberal among our judges by constant criticism of their sentencing and judgments. He has fought tenaciously to preserve his power to determine the length of prison term to be served by lifers in individual cases, in the face of clear rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that such decisions are for judges, not politicians. He proposes to create a monstrous national database recording extensive information about every one of us, to contain detailed information about all our movements and activities from cradle to grave, thus putting huge and unprecedented powers in the hands of the state at the expense of the citizen. He has filled our prisons to bursting point on a scale unmatched anywhere else in western Europe. He has sought to deter applications for political asylum in Britain by the harsh and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers already here. He has refused to provide the same legislative protection for children against assault by adults that adults enjoy between themselves. His guiding star has always seemed to be the editorial opinions of the most reactionary and mean-spirited of our dreadful tabloids. And after all this, his political clout has gone from strength to strength.
Until now. Suddenly the media are publishing tittle-tattle about Mr Blunkett’s private life: scurrilous allegations, quite possibly unfounded and certainly irrelevant, cover the front pages and dominate the electronic media, none of them having the slightest bearing on his public position, all of them inviting the reply (in Billie Holiday’s immortal words): Ain’t nobody’s business if I do.
What a sad irony that a political leader should flourish, quite unaffected by an abysmal record in public office, only to be badly damaged by an alleged scandal in his private life which has not the slightest bearing on his fitness or functions as Britain’s home secretary!
28 November 04