David Blunkett to step down as an MP

21st June, 2014 9:05 am

Former Home and Education Secretary David Blunkett has announced that he’s stepping down as an MP at the next election. Blunkett, 67, told his local Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough Labour Party last night that he wouldn’t be contesting the general election next year – apparently as he realises he won’t be returning to the frontbenches. Blunkett’s letter to his constituents pointedly notes that “it is clear that the leadership of the Party wish to see new faces in Ministerial office and a clear break with the past”.

blunkett

Blind since birth, David Blunkett has been one of Labour’s most recognisable figures for over thirty years as a leader at both a local and national level. Responding to the news of his imminent departure, Ed Miliband released the following statement:

David Blunkett 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 will be hugely missed.

David can take great pride in all he has done to improve the lives of people in this country. He has been an amazing asset to the Labour Party and to Britain and I know he will continue to serve the country and the Labour Party with great distinction.

And here’s David Blunkett’s statement to his local party in full:

In making the decision as to whether to step down at the next General Election after what will be 28 years in Parliament (and 45 years in total as an elected representative in the area), I have done my best to balance my own personal considerations with those of both our local party and the electorate of Brightside and Hillsborough.

This has been by far the most difficult political decision I have ever made, in a lifetime of extremely difficult decisions.  Not least because members (and it is true of the majority of local people) have always given me unconditional but not uncritical support.  I owe so much to so many people who have made it possible for me to play a significant part in public life and to have the privilege of eight years in the Cabinet of a Labour Government, of which I remain extremely proud.

Next year will see ten years on the backbenches, five in opposition.  Whilst I have been able to use the experience and the clout which came from having been a Cabinet Minister for the benefit of the constituency in getting a hearing, contributing to policy and providing a voice for local people and for Sheffield at national level, it is clear that the leadership of the Party wish to see new faces in Ministerial office and a clear break with the past.

For me, being in a position to make decisions and thereby make a difference, has always been paramount, and I hope in future to continue to promote our success and values, and to make a continuing contribution to public service and the social and voluntary sector.

Working with people to enable them to change the world for the better and therefore to practise what I preach about participation and active citizenship has been fundamental.  It is the Labour Party working with and in the community that brings about lasting change.

Yet there does come 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. Whilst I still have the drive, enthusiasm and commitment I have always had, sustaining this for a further six years (and a year before the General Election and with fixed term Parliaments, that is what staying on would mean) would not only be challenging but could lead to a less effective service to constituents.  In simple terms, I would rather leave while I am still giving 100%.

I was privileged to be able to lead on ground-breaking policies, from the introduction of universal early years and nursery provision, to the transformation of education in our schools, and the security of the nation post the 11th September attack in the United States in 2001.

It was a privilege to enable young people to have a job, to access higher education frozen under the previous Government, and to be able to oversee the most substantial fall in crime in recent history.  All of us build on what has come before and learn the lessons that change often takes more time and greater patience than is acceptable to any Minister intent on immediate improvement and early outcomes.  Many of the seeds I was able to sow, from welfare reform to lifelong learning and from the new challenge of cyber security to the debate on values and citizenship, are only now bearing fruit.

Above all this is a moment when we need to offer hope, a belief in Government as a means of supporting people in making their own decisions and coping with unprecedentedly rapid change in an increasingly global political environment. Helping with the transitions of life, providing greater security and overcoming the fears generated by uncertainty, can only be achieved by a Labour Government committed to giving a voice to those excluded from the power which comes with wealth and privilege.

Ed Miliband is committed to leading Britain through the challenges ahead, to offering that hope and transforming our country in order to take on both the opportunities and pitfalls of globalisation, and to hear and respond to fears and concerns of men and women across the country. That is why all of us have an obligation to ensure that we elect a Labour Government and put Ed Miliband in Downing Street on May 7th next year.

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  • Monkey_Bach

    Finally a snippet of good news. Hurrah! Eeek.

  • robertcp

    Unfortunately, Blunkett was typical of his generation of Labour politicians. Very left-wing in the 1980s and then very right-wing from the late 1990s. The result was 28% of the vote in the 1983 general election and 29% of the vote in 2010.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      You cannot reasonably describe David Blunkett as “very right wing”. He became more centrist would be more accurate.

      • BillFrancisOConnor

        Completely correct. He became a centrist. All this agreeing has to stop Jaime.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Goodness Bill, I agree.

          Can we have an argument about the A14? I think we should be pushing on. The local objections seem to me to be NIMBY.

        • Doug Smith

          Poppycock.

          He’s firmly on the Right – hence his claim that schools and GP surgeries were being “swamped” by asylum seekers.

          We all know the game he was playing and, looking back, we can see that his judgement was as unsound as other New Labour cabinet colleagues.

          • treborc1

            Blunkett was basically going nowhere Until Blair, he held positions in the opposition but nothing much was going on, he then help position and basically resigned from them all over dealing with his personal life or his business or Visa’s and nannies, and he tells people he is proud of his welfare reforms.

            He would have sold off his soul for power another like Brown thought he was more then he really was.

          • Dave Postles

            As his career progrressed, so I became more and more disillusioned with him. Good luck to Brightside – still have a soft spot for it.

        • Dave Postles

          Cyndi Lauper: true colours come shining through.

      • robertcp

        I suppose that I meant right-wing in Labour Party terms (this is a Labour site after all!). Labour should be a left of centre party, so you are on the right-wing of the Labour Party if you are in the centre of the whole political spectrum.
        Another example is that I would describe myself as being in the centre of the Labour Party. That clearly puts me on the centre-left of politics generally.

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Robert, I understand that.

          I do wish that “the world” moved on from a simple left/right definition. The left and right are about economic views, but there is another dimension of liberal/authoritarian opinion, commonly depicted as the Y axis to left/right. Given that our political parties are fairly commonly grouped slightly to the right of centre economically (which i have no problem with, but many on LL do), it seems to me that the real differentiation comes from the other axis. Blunkett was quite authoritarian, mostly in keeping with Labour philosophy. Too authoritarian for me. His private life however seems fairly liberal, at least regarding affairs of the heart.

          • robertcp

            My personal view is that the left-right division still makes sense, although it can be complicated by whether people are liberal or authoritarian. I disliked the authoritarianism of New Labour and the coalition has been more liberal sometimes.

          • reformist lickspittle

            But not *that* often……

            Interesting to see Blunkett is now against ID cards.

          • treborc1

            Bet he’s not against zero hour contracts nannies and visa’s.

          • gunnerbear

            Ice-cold. Direct hit! *Battleship sunk*
            (wasn’t that a great game!!)

          • robertcp

            Maybe but Yvette Cooper makes me cringe sometimes.

          • Dave Postles

            Hardly at all. Surely nobody can be as authoritarian as Gove! Surely nothing can be as anti-democratic as the lobbying bill!

      • gunnerbear

        Sorry JTC, missed your comment.

    • treborc1

      Turn coat you mean, hell of a lot of them in politics sadly

    • gunnerbear

      No, he shifted from the ‘Loony Left’ to the centre ground to get into HMG and then stay in the HOC. A pragmatist.

      • treborc1

        Looney left your getting more hilarious daily, in all the time that I was around labour, Blunkett was more interest like so many in his money his power and his bank balance maybe because he came up out of poverty.

        • Dave Postles

          It’s part of the Tory plot to keep you all distracted.

          • treborc1

            Working then I’ve never been so distracted in my life. With the Tories I’ve got tears in my eyes for the pain, and with labour I’ve got tears in my eyes through the laughter of listening to Miliband saying I’m not red I’m blue.

        • gunnerbear

          Fair comment, but in opposition, I always found him ‘of the Left’ – then once in HMG more of the centre.

          Bit like how some Tory MPs go from ardent rightists to centrists when they become members of HMG.

      • Dave Postles

        Funnily enough, I worked for Sheffield City Council when Blunkett was Leader. As he later described it, it was a policy of ‘dented shield’ – defence of what it was possible to defend. The destruction was abominable – and why we have no strategic industries now. Did you see the east end of Sheffield in the 1980s? We picked up the detritus which was left.

        • treborc1

          Most of industrialized Wales was the same, one day we were all working, the next a few lucky ones were picking up the mess.
          Now most of us are sitting around wondering what next…

        • gunnerbear

          So why in 13 years did Labour not recreate the mass industries or mass employment opportunities? For one of those terms as HMG, the Labour Party had such a majority it could have done anything it liked.

          Although to be truthful given how Labour shut more mines than the Conservatives, I’m not certain steel or coal would have been any safer in Labour’s hands in the ’80s – the jobs would still have gone, maybe at a slower rate (with a ‘softer face’) but on past performance Labour would still have closed the mines and the shipyards and the steelworks.

          • Dave Postles

            Why ask me? I’m not an apologist for New Labour. Perhaps there would have been managed decline by NL – still better than the cataclysmic closure by Thatcher – she did have a hitlist of more pit closures and her ideology was that manufacturing industry did not matter, that the future was services. Even at the fag end of NL, however, Mandelson, with all his grotesque features, did enunciate a manufacturing policy and the billions to support it (which he vired from the HE budget) – and which Clegg and Osborne immediately abrogated – including the pioneer development of large plates for the nuclear industry by Forgemasters in Sheffield which Mandelson had already allocated but Clegg protested was ultra viires. Labour shut more mines than the Tories: after the damage wreaked by Thatcher, that was the only solution – the internal market had been flooded with Polish coal – it was just a consequence of the havoc started by Thatcher.

            Yes, I voted for NL – there was, as Thatcher had it, no alternative. I opposed Iraq. I canvassed for Labour in 2010, but when they rolled out Blair, I voted Green and left the LP. I equally dislike Giddens and the ‘third way’ (or, as Giddens might have it, ‘structuration’). Many of us who voted Labour did so more in hope than expectation. The industrial regeneration which is available to us now is renewable energy. Even Mandelson had a programme at the death – based on a new port at Hartlepool, of course. It was at teh end of NL that exploratory work was commenced on the Pentland Firth.

          • PeterBarnard

            Actually, DP, I think that the days when we send men down shafts to do a dirty and dangerous job, ie digging coal, should be long gone – world-wide. There was the recent tragedy in Turkey, for example. Nearer to (my) home, but almost 80 years ago now, there was the Gresford colliery disaster just before the Second World War ; but, even after the NCB took over in Attlee’s government, I still recall men being killed down coal mines during the early 1950s.

            It’s not the number of mines closed – it’s the aggregate loss of employment. In 1951, there were 699.000 employees on the NCB books ; by 1964, this was down to 517,000 ; by 1970, down to 305,000 ; by 1974 down to 252,000 ; by 1979, down to 235,000 ; by 1991, down to 65,000 ; and, by 1997, down to 16,000.

            The big loss under a Labour government was during the first Wilson period, but that was a time when North Sea gas came on stream.

            Coal, as a source of energy has been in long-term decline since 1951 : as mentioned, North Sea gas, but also a decreased industrial use (including coke ovens), a decreased domestic use (all that central heating), and, of course, no steam locomotives (except for a handful in the leisure industry) on our railways. The increased use for power stations has been nowhere near enough to outweigh the losses elsewhere.

            In summary : employees lost under Labour governments prior to 1997 : 229,000 ; employees lost under Conservative governments to 1997 – 454,000.

          • Dave Postles

            Peter, we’re now importing dumped coal from the US:

            http://www.energydigital.com/global_mining/us-coal-exports-booming-in-europe

            at the same time as British Coal is closing the last two deep mines, including Thoresby – so much for the UDM. We’ve had dumped Russian coal, dumped Polish coal, dumped Chinese coal, dumped Australian coal.

          • gunnerbear

            So that means either protectionist tariffs (no can do…EU and all that) or massive ongoing subsidies for coal production in the UK….even if you could get it past ‘Green chuzzlewits” in the HoC.

          • Dave Postles

            Yes, I’d prefer subsidies for coal production in the UK for a transitional period until governments get their finger out for renewables. By comparison with subsidies for commissioning and decommissioning nuclear, it is minuscule. It’s simply an executive decision.
            For five years when he came back from WWII, my dad worked at the coalface at Snibston – the seams were about a metre high – pick and shovel and pit ponies. Of course those pits had to close. (Snibston became an industrial museum with a Discovery Park – the mains are Stephenson I and II – the Leicester-Swannington railway runs nearby – the Tory-controlled county council now wants to close it all because of the cuts in central government grant to the council – the only reflection of this historical landscape will be the FE College, Stephenson College – so there at least is cultural ‘austerity’).

            Thatcher intended to destroy the coal industry – the longlist has been revealed with the release of papers under the thirty-year rule. Scargill was wrong on the strike, but right about the llist. We should have continued with a strategic nationalized coal industry with a nationalized grid for the transitional period for renewables. How much anthracite has been locked away in South Wales?

          • gunnerbear

            Fair comment about subsidies…but that means paying very high levels of subsidies when much cheaper coal is available. I’d still go with n-power as well and get tidal power underway.

            As to the strategic aspects of the industry, I agree but if you argue for coal subsidies, you then need to say why steel and shipbuilding shouldn’t get them…..

            ….and of course state aid is illegal under the EU…so if you want subsidies either HMG has to ignore EU treaties and laws (something it hates to do) or it has to get out of the EU….

            …at which point we could put barriers in place to stop dumping…..

          • Dave Postles

            Don’t tell me that the Germans are not subsiding their coal industry now that they have renounced nuclear! There is another way. Develope the mines as infrastructure and then lease them to cooperatives with a national safety regulator. It needs to be done before the skills (e.g. NACODS; mines safety centres) are completely lost. Safety is paramount – unlike in Turkey and probably the USA. It is humanitarian in that sense and climate-change-sensitive to the extent that coal is not shipped halfway around the world. UK government should be developing Unity in S. Wales for anthracite as an infrastructure project.

          • gunnerbear

            “Thatcher intended to destroy the coal industry…”

            Even if she had shut every pit, it would have be about the same as Wilson. Did Wilson, when he shutting pits, do so out of spite? To ‘destroy’ the industry?

          • Dave Postles

            She intended the closure of the mining industry on the expectation of coal imports from Poland. Your point about Wilson is completely lost on me. You refer to spite. What motivated Thatcher was her background – as many have commented – the lower bourgeois Roberts family. She felt that the lower middle class had had a raw deal, which is one of the reasons she had such vitriol against the unions. The closure of teh mines was entirely consonant too with Hayekian/Friedmanite policy. She believed that the free-est market – i.e. importing the cheapest coal from anywhere – would be a self-propelled solution – rolling back the state in the process. Wilson had none of that background – indeed, he was an academic economist with a very different background.
            The problem of the self-regulating market is that it has no human or moral dimension – rather redolent of Thatcher, really. In business philosophy, I expect that one would say that she was too task-oriented rather than people-oriented. Yes, however, she wanted to free the lower middle class which she believed had had a raw deal.

          • PeterBarnard

            I was going to say (before I read your comments further down) that I’m not sure whether you are championing dirty ol’ coal, or green/sustainable sources of energy. For sure, until we get to viable clean coal combustion, coal is not the answer if “green is your thing.”

            Having said that, I do understand your anger regarding the Conservatives, between 1979 and 1997. Despite what GB says about Harold Wilson, output fell by 51 million tons in the years 1964-70, and actually rose by 12 million tons between 1974 and 1979, for a net loss of 39 million tons. Output fell by 74 million tons – almost twice as much – between 1979 and 1997. Labour also increased the coal supply to power stations by 30 million tons, whereas the Conservatives allowed the power station consumption of coal to fall by 42 million tons between 1979 and 1997, most of which (37 million tons) occurred during the “dash for gas” period 1991-97 … and look where that has got us.

            I suppose it’s an extension of F S Smith’s remark, “I thought that the coal miners’ leaders were stupid, until I met the owners of the coal mine” (for coal mine owners, substitute the Conservatives 1979-97).

          • Dave Postles

            Although I pay my membership of the Green Party, I am a pragamatist on climate change. I want good jobs for my neighbours (as far as any energy industry jobs are ‘good’ jobs). I am not one of the Greenpeace people who demonstrate at such as Radcliffe-on-Soar power station – visible from my house. The slow pace of development of renewables because of government indifference/hostility means that there has to be a transitional period of traditional energy sources (except fracking). Carbon-capture could arrive sooner if the current UK government was interested. I expect that an independent Scottish government might accelerate the process as well as get to work on Pentland Firth.

          • PeterBarnard

            Thanks, Dave, and thank you for the good background information that you have supplied, especially on mine closures.

            You may wish to take a look at the report published two years ago by the Royal Society/Royal Academy of Engineering on hydraulic fracturing. Basically, it says that if – and the emphasis is on if – sound engineering practices are followed in design, well installation, and operation, then hydraulic fracturing may be safely conducted.

            With or without fracking, our energy situation is a mess these days, especially with the privatisation of electricity generation and distribution. Nationalisation of such a critical and strategic component of the national picture is the only answer.

          • gunnerbear

            Yep, because all the smaller mines closed first – lots of little mines closing first and those with poor reserves then a growing number of larger and then ‘super-pits’ closing.

            In my opinion neither Red nor Blue have any room to finger-point over this issue. All their fingerprints are all over it.

            The coke ovens coke is a good point as well – it’s not only about price but quality. Coal for coking has to be of extremely high quality and so UK steel makers do look abroad – they have to – to ensure supplies at the right price and right quality.

            Especially as the ‘cleaner’ the feedstock into the oven, the less ‘Green Garbage’ there is to worry about plus of course the coke is of the best possible quality, ready to go into the iron-making process.

          • gunnerbear

            Err….Labour closed more mines long before Thatcher ever came about…..

            “Historical coal data: coal production, availability and consumption 1853 to 2012” (Government Data Sets)

            I think it is fair to say that, based on these figures collected by HMGs over the years government, roughly 290 mines closed under Wilson (in his entire time as PM) and again roughly about 160 under Thatcher.

            Hmm….do you think Wilson closed the mines out spite – as many say Mrs. T. did – or for economic reasons.
            Incidentally, the SFM decision by NC was cretin-like in the extreme!

  • treborc1

    I suppose he wanted to be back on the front bench knew he was never going to happen so will retire, he will be heading for the House of Lords so will staying in politics.

    he lost his appeal some time ago when he has the issue that saw him leave the posts he was given , and was never again trusted .

    I suppose we can all look forward to another Progress MP in the near future.

    • swatnan

      With any luck it could be a Compass MP.

      • treborc1

        I doubt these days compass would even bother defining themselves as labour god knows what they are these days…

  • PoundInYourPocket

    What memories, indefinite detention without trial, control orders, ID cards, and being arrested for wearing an “I don’t like Tony” T-Shirt under the anti-terrorism act.
    One of a succession of authoritairian Home Secretaries. Happy days.

    • Rex Hale

      His attempt to introduce ID cards is shaming. He must never be allowed to escape that.

  • JoeDM

    One of the more sensible Labour ministers of the Blair / Brown years.

    • treborc1

      Not saying a hell of a lot for the rest if he was the best.

    • Dave Postles

      Pity that we can’t go back to uncover the denunciations of Labour authoritarianism, RIPA, and so on – which the Tories insist are necessary for ‘national security’, with a few exceptions.

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