Here is an extract from David Blunkett’s wikipedia entry.:
- At the start of the Labour government’s second term in 2001, Blunkett was promoted to Home Secretary, fulfilling an ambition of his. Observers saw him as future Prime Minister, and a rival to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown‘s hopes to succeed Blair.
- Blunkett was almost immediately faced with the 11 September terrorist attacks on the USA. He brought in new anti-terrorism measures, including detention without trial of suspect foreign nationals who couldn’t be extradited or deported. It caused a backbench rebellion and provoked strong opposition in the House of Lords, and Blunkett made concessions over incitement to religious hatred (later carried through by his successor) and to introduce a “sunset clause”.
- As Home Secretary he was prepared to confront the judiciary and the police, with proposals for civilian community patrols and changes to police officers’ pay and working conditions. More than 7,000 police demonstrated outside Parliament in 2002.
- Also during his term in office the massive upsurge in asylum claims was reversed, the Sangatte refugee camp on French soil was closed, and refugees numbers subsequently dropped from 110,000 to less than 30,000. With an additional 15,000 police officers and 6,500 Community Support Officers by 2004, crime had reached an all-time low with over a 40% drop from ten years earlier.
- A controversial area for Blunkett was civil liberties, which he famously described as “airy fairy”. As Education Secretary, he had repeatedly expressed the intention that, were he to become Home Secretary, he would make the then-incumbent Jack Straw, who had been criticised for being hard-line, seem overly liberal. An indication of what he meant came in October 2002, when there was a serious riot at Lincoln Prison. Martin Narey, then Director General of HM Prison Service, later claimed that when informed of the riot, Blunkett became hysterical and ‘shrieked’ that the prison must be re-taken without regard to loss of life and that rioters should be machine-gunned if necessary. Narey concluded that Blunkett was not up to the job. Blunkett denied this version of events.
- Blunkett radically overhauled ‘Victorian’ sex offences legislation in 2002, which modernised the sex offences laws dramatically in relation to same-sex and related issues by sweeping away the archaic laws governing homosexuality, while tightening protections against rapists, paedophiles and other sex offenders. The act closed a loophole that had allowed those accused of child rape to escape punishment by arguing the act was consensual and a new offence of adult sexual activity with a child, which covers any sex act that takes place between an adult and a child under 16, was introduced. It was supported by all major political parties in the UK.
- Blunkett resigned as Home Secretary on 15 December 2004 amidst allegations that he helped fast-track a tourist visa for his ex-lover’s nanny. In his resignation statement he stated that he had no recollection of doing this.