The resignation of work and pensions secretary David Blunkett is a further sign of the decay of the Blair regime. Almost daily there is a sense that this rotten government is being run from an embattled bunker where all but the most faithful have departed and even the previously loyal acolytes have slunk away or engaged in self-destructive behaviour.
It is the Iraq war which, above all else, has sunk Blair. As the wound of the war refuses to heal, his government becomes more bizarrely out of touch over everything.
Blunkett embodies the arrogance of the Blair set. He revelled in his reputation for standing with the police and harrying asylum seekers. Most recently he declared that the benefit system was “crackers” and that incapacity claimants should stop watching daytime television.
If one event sums-up his attitude it was in 2002 when 80 Asians in Bradford were convicted for daring to defend their community from Nazi-inspired attacks. Then home secretary Blunkett described those jailed as 'maniacs' who should stop 'whining' about their sentences and attacked the 'bleeding heart liberals' who questioned the length of the prison terms.
Just like Peter Mandelson’s demise in British politics, Blunkett’s fall is an indication of the way New Labour ministers have fallen in love with the lifestyles of the rich. It is nothing new for Labour leaders to crawl to the wealthy and beg invitations to their parties and their villas.
But New Labour has taken this to a new height. An openly pro-business party can brazenly consort with those who used to be regarded as the party’s enemies.
Blunkett, with his relationship with the publisher of right-wing magazine The Spectator and his honorary membership of Annabel’s club, fell in with a rich set. But to live like then he needed far more than his ministerial salary of £130,347, and it was disaster when he was reduced to a backbencher on just £57,500.
Within weeks of being forced to resign from the cabinet he picked up a slew of jobs, consultancies and after-dinner speaking engagements which together paid £70,000.
His first employer, Indepen, tells privatised utility firms how to deal with government regulators. Blunkett was paid over £15,000 for seminars on “his perspective on government and how government works”.
Then just before the election, he was hired by DNA Structures Ltd, a firm that trades as DNA Bioscience and markets paternity test kits. He bought 12 shares in the firm for £15,000 which, according to some financial experts, would have been worth £500,000 if the company had won the contracts which enabled it to be floated as a public company.
He didn’t even bother to follow the code which says he should declare such jobs, with their potential conflict of interest.
Now his failures have caught up with him. The end of the Blair regime cannot come soon enough.