Well, put up the bunting, my three month nightmare is over. I have finally, finally completed reading the 870 pages of David Blunkett's diaries. Many of you have wondered why I bothered to start reading it in the first place. I suppose the real reason is because I wanted to see if it confirmed my pre-existing views of him. It did, and then some.
Let's start off by saying something nice. It is a phenomenal achievement for David Blunkett to have held down three cabinet rank jobs without being able to see. It says something about his work ethic, indefatigability and courage that he was at the forefront of British politics for nine years. But that's about as much as positive as I can be about this sorry excuse for a book.
Hubris, sanctimony and bumptiousness leave a stench on virtually every page. Rarely have I read a political diary which has the stain of self justification leaping out from virtually every paragraph. Nothing is ever his fault. Everyone else is incompetent. The Home Office was a basket case. His officials were useless. Only he had a plan. Only he was capable of sorting out the mess. Except, it turned out that he wasn't.
The reason he was incapable of driving his agenda through emanates from his personal flaws. These are all too evident throughout the book. For someone who can't see, he is a very poor listener. His beleaguered special advisers did their best to help him help himself, but in the end it was a thankless task. Only he knew what the solutions were and bugger the opinions of everyone else.
John Prescott is a key figure in the book. Blunkett cannot understand why Prescott hates him so much. By the end of the book even I had some sympathy with Prezza.
If you're going to write a diary, it has to be warts and all. You can't just leave a major part of your life out of the narrative, just because you are either later ashamed or embarrassed. Nowhere in the book does the name of Kimberly Quinn rear its head. Blunkett trots out the usual canard of a private life being private, but when the woman he loved effectively caused him to have a nervous breakdown which led to his resignation, you have to wonder at the brass neck of leaving those details out. The book costs £25 and every reader knows about Quinn and having shelled out the money I expected him to tell the truth. Perhaps I should have known better.
Kimberly Quinn was undoubtedly the love of his life. He was deeply hurt by her and admits that at the time of all the publicity over their child he wasn't seeing straight. But, as I recall, he doesn't even mention the child. It's all a deeply dishonest way of writing a diary. In some ways it's not Blunkett I blame. It's his publisher. They paid £200,000 for the book and he got another six figure sum for the serialisation. What fools.