UK & World News

  • 21 June 2014, 2:15

David Blunkett To Quit To 'Give Labour A Break'

Former home secretary David Blunkett is to stand down as an MP before the next election, saying he wants to give the Labour party a "break from the past".

The 67-year-old, who has held his seat in Parliament since 1987, said standing down was "by far the most difficult political decision I have ever made, in a lifetime of extremely difficult decisions".

But he added: "There comes a time when a fresh approach and the energy that goes with it outweigh other considerations and I believe that for the party and for the constituency, as well as for me personally, that moment has come."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Blunkett had been an "amazing asset" who would be "hugely missed" by the party.

"He is a man whose commitment and determination have carried him to the highest positions in politics with one purpose - to serve the people of our country," he said.

"He has been a friend to me during my time as leader. I have valued and counted on his advice and wisdom. Every Labour leader under whom he served would have said the same. He is Labour through and through.

"David can take great pride in all he has done to improve the lives of people in this country."

Mr Blunkett, who is blind, is one of Westminster's most recognisable characters.

He was first elected as MP for the Sheffield Brightside seat in 1987 and served as education secretary, home secretary and work and pensions secretary under Tony Blair.

He resigned as home secretary in 2004 after a visa application for the nanny of Kimberly Quinn, a journalist with whom he had an affair, was fast-tracked.

Mr Blair said he quit "without a stain on his character" but his return to Cabinet less than a year later ended with another resignation after a row over his business interests.

Mr Blunkett's comeback followed a series of scathing comments about fellow ministers in a biography by author Stephen Pollard, in which he said some of his colleagues were "soft", "weak" and prone to "panic".

Gordon Brown "threw his weight around" and Jack Straw left the Home Office in a "giant mess" after switching roles, he said.

Mr Blunkett said he was "privileged to be able to lead on ground-breaking policies" in education, as well as security following the 9/11 terror attacks.

"Many of the seeds I was able to sow ... are only now bearing fruit," he said.

Since returning to the backbenches, Mr Blunkett has published his diaries and was fortunate to escape serious injury after being charged by a cow while walking his guide dog Sadie in 2009.

He remarried later that year and, more recently, the phone-hacking trial heard voicemails he left for Ms Quinn were accessed by the News of the World.

Mr Blunkett backed Labour to win next year's general election and said Mr Miliband was "committed to leading Britain through the challenges ahead".