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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2005, 16:18 GMT
Blunkett 'man of Sheffield steel'
By Nick Ravenscroft
BBC News, Sheffield

In the square outside David Blunkett's former fiefdom, Sheffield City Hall, a great wailing went up at lunchtime as news of the resignation filtered through the city.

But it was not an expression of collective sorrow at his second fall from grace.

David Blunkett leaves the Foreign Press Association after making a statement
The Westminster frenzy is being felt in Sheffield
It was just the siren which blares out everyday at 1pm to tell nearby workers it is time to nip out for a sandwich.

And it is the bread and butter issues of their own lives which many people here are more focused on.

They feel a long way from the goings-on of the Westminster village, even if it is one of their own who has fallen on his sword.

'Sticks to his guns'

"If you make mistakes you have to expect to get your ankles tapped," says retired steelworker Peter Reynolds as he watches the TV satellite trucks lumber up onto the pavement.

"Simple as that. I'm not sorry to see him go."

David Blunkett and guide dog Ruby at the Labour Party Conference in 1973
The ex-minister is happiest with the grass roots says one resident

Sympathy is not exactly gushing here.

Neil was a taxi driver before he became homeless.

He used to ferry David Blunkett around. Is he sorry that the minister has lost his job?

"He deserves it. He was arrogant," he says.

But David Blunkett's single-minded approach to getting a job done is a quality that gets recognition in Sheffield.

"He sticks to his guns. And he sticks to his roots," says Ann Seymour, who is picking up supplies to take back to her canal boat.

"Although I do think he's been rather foolish to let his private life come into the public domain. I think he had to go."

'Socialist Republic'

And it is David Blunkett's single-mindedness which could ultimately have undone him.

"His success has been part of his downfall, says Peter Price, a councillor during Mr Blunkett's time as leader of Sheffield City Council.

Then it was known - affectionately or derisively - as the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire.

He was lucky to get a second bite of the cherry
Roger Brooks
Newspaper vendor

"What he's achieved, he's achieved by pushing through bureaucracy," says Mr Price in reference to Mr Blunkett's failure to consult a committee on taking paid work once he left the government for the first time.

There is genuine surprise here at the resignation, something which seems to have snowballed so fast after he on Tuesday told the Sheffield Star he would not go.

By early afternoon on Wednesday, the scribbled placards on the front of newsstands still had not been updated with news of his downfall.

Roger Brooks, selling copies, felt Mr Blunkett had done the right thing.

"He's transgressed once. If you think about it, he was lucky to get a second bite of the cherry."

Future role?

Of late, David Blunkett has seemed less of a Sheffield lad and more of a Westminster animal.

One good friend from their council heyday says that is something which puts people off.

David Blunkett
Some believe a steely Blunkett will bounce back

"On TV he is just the Home Secretary or Work and Pensions Minister, says Tony Damms.

"But he's at his happiest with normal people.

"I attended a tenants' meeting with him recently just as all of this was bubbling up. They clapped him in and I think he took strength from that."

And what of his future?

David Blunkett has been the MP for Sheffield Brightside since 1987.

His friends say they would be amazed if he now packed that in too.

"Made of Sheffield steel, you see," said one to me. "He'll bounce back."


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