Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Book Review: My Blunkett Nightmare is Over At Last

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.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

it to have held down three cabinet rank jobs without being able to see.

Personally, I think being deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid are the key characteristics of a CAbinet Minister, but I appreciate that Blunkett only had two of the required attributes and so his success in holding down three jobs is commendable in view of this handicap

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I never thought that diaries and autobiographies are of much value. The former are not realiable and the later too subjective. Of course there are exceptions, Crossman, Benn in the dairies sector and the autobiographies of RAB and Healey are classics. Biographies are the best way to find out about a politician, and those published after the subjects death always of value.

Unknown said...

Forgive me if I am wrong but is not the main function of a Minister being able to listen to lots of different points of view and then act decisively. If Blunkett did not have this ability then why was he chosen as a Minister in the first place. The fault can only lie with one person...

DIVINE said...

Blunkett '....wasn't seeing straight.'

Slightly unfortunate, no doubt inadvertent, somewhat revealing

Curmy said...

I've often wondered whether not being able to see the expressions on people's faces stopped him realising when he was doing something really stupid.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Curmy, I'm sure it did. He got into trouble for slagging off a female colleague in very unflattering and inappropriate language, only to find out that she was in the lift too!

Anonymous said...

Try not to be too offensive in your comments, people, we don't want to upset him if he read this. Oh...

Anonymous said...

I also read this book though I did scan some pages fairly quickly in the dead of night.

With hindsight this was a waste of time. Blunket is certainly no Abraham Lincoln, rather he veers towards Robert Maxwell or Conrad Black in his self confident, smug sanctimoniousness.

Being handicapped is no excuse for being an opportunistic shit.

Newmania said...

When a man works as a mouthpiece , primarily for most of his life I think it is not reasonable to be so reasonable about his failings.
Congrats on your stamina.. Did anyone see his Sun Column ? You would quite seriously have assumed he was retarded if it was on a blog.

CityUnslicker said...

Well I hope you have learnt your lesson Iain. These NuLab's just aren't worth wasting time on.

Your review proves there is no depth to them. How dreay will Tony Blair's 'I saved the world and YOUR life too, sonny,' be?

The Hitch said...

Well Iain
Its cold tonight , if you have an open fire?

Anonymous said...

Best thing to do is sell it on Ebay to try and make up some of the loss.

Anonymous said...

But...what did you really think of the book?

Surely you can't have expected it to be anything but mendacious, mealy-mouthed and self-serving...the stench of Blunkett extends all the way from London to Vancouver; when you think of recent political laughingstocks, he's right up in the top five.

Anonymous said...

Curmo, I said once before that being unable to read the expression on people's faces disqualified him for life in politics. It would also disqualify him for pleading someone's case in a courtroom.

His appointments were part of Emily's all-inclusive political correctness. To hell with whether he is simply not qualified for the job, show is everything - and Tony adores showing how simply overwhelmingly inclusive he is. How he is able to overlook the externals and see through into the real person. (We have a similar ability regarding you, BTW, Emily.)

I went and poured a drink when I saw that you were finally reviewing the book, Iain, and it was a fun read with a stiff whisky.

And I still want to know - does he still have his ministerial car? Does he still live in a grace and favour residence?

Thanks for the review, Iain!

The Military Wing Of The BBC said...

The Radio 4 Book of the Week adaptation of said book, read by "I'll fool those tossers who read the Daily Mail into thinking I'm right-wing" Blunkett himself. Led to complaints on "Feedback" that provoked the one and only "mea culpa" from a BBC commissioning editor that I've ever heard on Feedback!


Anyway what's all this about West Ham NOT getting to use the Olympic Stadium after 2012? What a fucking waste of money - what are they going to use it for otherwise?

Anonymous said...

You poor sod for reading the whole thing. I heard a few bits of the Radio 4 abridgement and found it shocking that such a deluded and self-regarding berk had ever been in a position of authority.

mrcawp said...

"For someone who can't see, he is a very poor listener."

Oooh, that's rather below the belt. Harsh stuff.

Raedwald said...

Hmmm. 3,000 copies sold of which about 2,000 copies will be sitting unread on municipal and university library shelves.

So only about a thousand people who have bought the thing with the intention of reading it.

Is this the only book in publishing history where the number of review copies sent out by the publishers exceeds the number of copies bought by the general public?

Who said the British public had no taste?

Sabretache said...

"Indefatigability???"

I can now never see or hear that word without visions of Geoge Galloway fawning before Saddam Hussein - Ughh

Anonymous said...

'you could sell it on ebay'...I think you'll find that new hardback copies are currently failing to attract an opening bid of 75p. Not the best investment you've ever made Iain. Maybe you could award it to the most inane NuLab anonymong comment of the week. There's certain to be fierce competition.

Anonymous said...

Put a plain brown paper dust cover over it, slot it back into the shelf and pretend it's not there.

Anonymous said...

I heard that, when the M6 Toll road was being built, thousands of copies of unsold Mills & Boon books were used as part of the base.

From what I read about all the unsold copies of this book, we could soon be experiencing another motorway building boom...

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

First of all, congratulations on finishing the book! And thank you for braving your way through it so that some of us don't have to. I was just going to wait for your review.

One more thing. You say:

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.

Alas, Iain, I am not as generous as you. There is no achievement in Blunkett holding down three Cabinet rank jobs in which he performed exceedingly badly, but was not sacked for his poor performance simply as a result of the patronage of his friend, the Prime Minister.

That he held down three jobs was down to nothing other than the generosity of Blair, for whom the quality of work comes a very poor second to the need to fill the Cabinet with his supporters.

Anonymous said...

Always tricky to know why some of these 'advances' are so large. But then publishing is a bit of a gamble.

I read Greg Dyke's autobiography, and found it amusing and quite informative. He does blow his own trumpet slightly, but then you don't get to the top in life without a bit of chutzpah and self-confidence. He was certainly decisive, and lucky. It only sold 8,000 copies.

Peter Kay's book sold upwards of 600, 000 copies. Some football auto/biographies have sold very well. So it is somewhat forgiveable if publishers jump on the bandwagon to sign up Ashley Cole and Jordan with huge advances, as even they might outsell David Blunkett.

Still, provides a rich vein of humour to be mined by Private Eye, as I'm sad enough still not to be bored with their gags about what to do with the vast numbers of unsold copies.

Anonymous said...

BTW, how much did it cost to have all documents crossing Blunkett's desk translated into Braille?

Does he still have his ministerial car?

Does he still have a grace and favour residence?

Anonymous said...

Man of Steel...

we could soon be experiencing another motorway building boom...

That would fit in very nicely with aggressive war, detention without trial, and the national identity database.

Anonymous said...

Graham E said...
'you could sell it on ebay'...I think you'll find that new hardback copies are currently failing to attract an opening bid of 75p. Not the best investment you've ever made Iain. Maybe you could award it to the most inane NuLab anonymong comment of the week. There's certain to be fierce competition.

8:00 AM

I've seen it in an Oxfam shop overpriced at £4.99

Anonymous said...

Antipholus Papps - good point.

....and let's not forget how the M6 Toll Road was financed....

you guessed it - another one of those wonderful PFI schemes, as brought to you by the same people who brought us aggressive war, dentention without trial and the national identity database.

Aren't some of Gordo's best friends in the PFI business?

Anonymous said...

verity - i hope you go blind, then we will see who is against equality of opportunity for the visually impaired. Arsehole.

Anonymous said...

I too read this dreary book and agree
nothing was ever his fault.Now I know why the home office and education are a mess cos he made them that way.

Anonymous said...

I just think it is a wonder how Rinka the wonderdog held the biro for so long.

Prescott hates Blunkett because even he managed to suss that Blair treated this (pardon the Prescoteze) blind lefty as the real DPM, leaving our retired all-at-sea barsteward as the 'Dating Pre-Menopausals'.

Anonymous said...

The really sad thing is while Blunkett was up his own **** for months, wondering which of kimberly Quimm's Barstewards was his (he gort the wron one, natc!), he took his eye off the ball and sent 'home' without thinking a decent young man who came here saying that his life was not safe in Afghanistan. Blunkett logic - we've invaded so it must be safe. A few months later, the man was dead and even his 10-year-old son was shot after his dad's death.

This is the scum that the Sun pays a fortune for his limp column.

Anonymous said...

AnĂ³nimo writes:
"verity - i hope you go blind, then we will see who is against equality of opportunity for the visually impaired. Arsehole."

You're spiteful and malicious, so you are a person of the left. Being blind disqualified Blunkett from being in any career in which the ability to acutely observe responses of other people - as in politics and the law - is a critical qualification.

He was given jobs which he was not qualified to perform and proved it by failing three times. The world is not as the left wants to pretend it is; it is as it is.

Anonymous said...

Then up spake brave Mr. Anonymous (6.10):

"verity - i hope you go blind, then we will see who is against equality of opportunity for the visually impaired."

I've heard a rumour that Mr Blunkett is in training as a brain surgeon but is a bit short on the volunteer patient front. Perhaps you'd like to apply Mr. A.

There's nowt like equality of opportunity say I.

Yak40 said...

Everyone else is incompetent. The xxx was a basket case. His officials were useless. Only he had a plan. Only he was capable of sorting out the mess.


Wow, reminds me strongly of Denis Healey's "Time of My Life".

Anonymous said...

Wonderful for His Age - Eh, lad, that were right funny. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful for His Age - Eh, lad, thank you an' all.

I wish Blunkett well in his new-found aspirational career under NuLab's inclusional policies. A good choice for first patient would be the selfless Tony Blair.

Anonymous said...

Verity, you're spiteful and malicious too: welcome to the collective, Comrade! From each according to her abilities, to each according to her needs, and I have the information you need and the ability to convey it in an amusingly bitchy manner.

So here:

Yes, Blunkett still has his grace and favour residence. I don't have specific info on the car, but the fact that he's still being billeted in such style would lead one to believe that he does still have it.

Anonymous said...

Raincoaster, thanks.

Why does no one call him on it? The taxpayer is paying for an ordinary MP to have expensive ministerial privileges.

Why?

What does Dave have on Tony?