Blind Love

Another change-of-pace here at EuroSavant today – but we love to keep you all off-balance, after all. Today’s subject is the “sex scandal” currently embroiling Britain. And today’s text, for once, is itself in English and from an American newspaper, namely a recent entry (Anatomy of a Political Sex Scandal) in the “World Opinion Roundup” series Jefferson Morley writes regularly for the Washington Post. That “sex scandal” involves David Blunkett, who is Britain’s Home Secretary (i.e. the cabinet minister in charge of law-and-order and internal security, the equivalent of the Attorney General in the US). Morley’s piece will give you all the links that you need to articles in the British press examining various facets of this case, from various points-of-view. And even now, a couple days after it first appeared, none of the links have yet gone dead.

At first glance, the tale now unfolding seems to be your standard political romantic scandal: a (male) politician falls for someone he shouldn’t, and translates his feelings into various sorts of actions he really shouldn’t do, which inevitably are found out – typically first by the tabloid press, with their paparazzi and ace reporters-in-brown-raincoats specialized in tracking down and documenting the dirt on people, to be later taken up by the mainstream press. Blunkett, 57 years old and already divorced, entered into an amorous relationship in 2001 with a married woman, namely the now-43-year-old Kimberley Quinn, publisher of the prominent English magazine the Spectator, owned by her husband, the 60-year-old Stephen Quinn. Indeed, it seems they started all this only shortly after the Quinn’s marriage that same year. Mrs. Quinn has a two-year-old son William, and is currently seven-months pregnant; and indications are strong that the father of both children is in fact Blunkett, and not the rightful husband. It has been Blunkett’s assertion of his right to visit William as his biological father that caused his estrangement with Mrs. Quinn, which estrangement prompted her to issue the allegation that he had improperly “fast-tracked,” on her behalf, the application of William’s Filipina nanny for permanent residence in Britain – in addition to other instances of “misusing his office” for her, such as by ensuring her house in London was protected by policemen during recent mass anti-globalization protests in London’s streets.

It’s mainly that alleged “fast-tracking” which is prompting what outrage there is in the British media. Using your public office to gain private advantage, either for yourself or for someone else: the British civil-servant culture apparently does not permit of any of that. At the same time, though, David Blunkett has been the main protagonist behind a series of measures designed to tighten security within the UK – one of the most recent such being a proposal to establish a nationwide identity card – which have rubbed many people the wrong way as encroachments on civil liberties. There are also the related measures he has taken as Home Secretary aimed at curbing what he has termed “anti-social behavior,” such as nighttime curfews in British cities and increased prosecution of even seemingly minor offenses. Now the sight of some seemingly anti-social behavior on Blunkett’s part naturally has everyone’s hypocrisy-meters reading off the chart.


From this description, it might seem that the American analogue to this would be if (outgoing) Attorney General John Ashcroft had been caught abusing his office for the sake of some woman not his wife. But in reality the parallel here is more with the amorous adventures associated with Bill Clinton’s second term in office. One reason I particularly like Morley’s press-review piece on this affair is that, unusually for him, he actually departs from the sheer “press-review” function of his article to make several interesting points. As he writes, “the ‘scandal’ of Blunkett’s unfortunate love life says something larger about 21st century Anglo-American political culture.” Only in America – and in Europe, only in the UK – would such a thing raise a stir, because “the political sex scandal, like rock and roll music, is an Anglo-Saxon art form that the Europeans [and of course he means here the continental Europeans] have never mastered. Time and again, the elites of ‘Old Europe’ have proven themselves utterly incapable of whipping themselves into a frenzy about their leaders’ love lives.”

I find that persuasive as it is, but not going far enough. For in my view, there is a singular fact here that media coverage of the Blunkett affair seems to be trying to ignore like the fabled 500-lb. guerrilla in the room. Take a look at that photo of David Blunkett stuck within Morley’s piece, of him talking on his mobile phone. Does he look a bit funny – his eyes, maybe? The man is actually blind – he’s been blind since birth, a birth which itself was into a poor family in Sheffield, England, a family made poorer by the death of his father in an accident at work when he – David – was very young. Blind, poor; but that didn’t stop him from going to university and, at age 22, becoming the youngest-ever member of the Sheffield City Council. This was the start to a meteoric political career which ultimately placed him in his present position as a key member of the governing Labour cabinet, probably ranking in importance only behind Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.


Yes, yes, in none of the media coverage of this affair that you can peruse via the links Morley’s article provides is the fact of Blunkett’s blindness avoided entirely, and Morley himself calls Blunkett “the blind Home Secretary.” But every single bit of this coverage does no more than put “blind” forward as an adjective that just happens to apply to this fellow, before swiftly passing over that fact to defend or attack the man, as the case may be, with no further reference to that fact.

A favorite cartoon of mine about the Clinton affair, reproduced here, illustrated the various takes people could have about that US president’s various misdemeanors perpetrated while he was in office. Actually, even as I like the cartoon, I also have a small problem with it, in that the key element that got Clinton in trouble was the fact of his lying to a federal grand jury, something that simply cannot be allowed to anyone, not even the President of the United States – in fact, especially not to the President of the United States. That said, then, perhaps the cartoon has even more relevance to the Blunkett affair than it did to Clinton. For David Blunkett, whatever his politics (and you can agree or disagree with them), must surely be an inspiration to anyone who expends even a slight bit of effort to read his biography. Blind, poor, yet university degree, skilled politician, and now a key player of the government that is running the country, so much so that, as Andy McSmith writes in the Independent, the Queen’s Speech of a few weeks ago (the British equivalent of the State of the Union speech, in which the government sets out its legislative agenda) “was in a large measure David Blunkett’s speech.” But not only that: married, and then even divorced! (Granted, the “divorced” bit is nothing to congratulate him about, and of course I know that blind people get married all the time. But I really bet that it’s particularly hard for them to achieve that – I don’t know whether Blunkett’s ex-wife was blind herself or not – and so I do admire that.) And he doesn’t stop there: At no less than the age of 54 he falls in love again with, and wins, another woman, and not any old woman (actually, only 43 years of age) but in fact the publisher of the Spectator, and who herself has recently been married to another, to boot! (And, from the pictures placed in the various articles, she’s also quite attractive. But I guess this didn’t enter into the affair, because of Blunkett’s physical limitations. Or perhaps it did? How do things like that work in such cases?) Then, to put things semi-crudely, he proceeds to cuckold her nominal husband, not once but twice!


So what if Blunkett’s relatively late-life passion moved him to perform such acts such as “fast-tracking” a nanny’s permanent residence application and even dispatching government vehicles to convey his lover to the appointed places for their weekend rendez-vous. I realize that British political culture just won’t stand for this sort of thing, but hey, this man is human and he was in love. And he remains an inspiration to us all. Naturally, I would not extend this admiration should he carry onward to committing true, clear moral crimes, like murdering someone, for example. (Although if he did so personally, with his own hands so to speak, and his victim had the full power of sight, then some grudging admiration would still sneak into all of our psyches, I suspect.)

On the other hand, if you want to keep your wife faithful by your side, then you treat her as a husband should. David Blunkett’s politics, and specifically his proposals for making Britain more secure, both from external and internal threats, are of course legitimate subjects of public debate. But the media, and the public generally, should simply lay off of him as regards this “sex scandal.” For, ultimately, David Blunkett is truly a “stud.”

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.