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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 15:26 GMT
Blunkett sings of starting over
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC news website

It may be seen as one of the more bizarre twists in the ever-more controversial Blunkett affair.

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett sang at a Labour bash
The home secretary turned up at a party for Labour MPs - universally known as "the works do" - and stunned them all by handing out song sheets so they could all join him singing an old Fred Astaire number, accompanied by another MP on guitar.

The lyrics - "I pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again" - were presumably selected to display a man not about to cave in under the pressure that appears to be building on him on a daily basis.

While some at the Christmas gathering near the Commons simply insisted it was "all light-hearted" others were either bemused or astonished at his behaviour

One claimed he was irritated that the home secretary had expected everyone at the do to sing along and then left as soon as he had finished his "entertainment".

And it left the prime minister's official spokesman having, once again, to defend Mr Blunkett to political journalists, both for the singing and the fact he had previously avoided the media by leaving home from his back door.

More vocal

"It's not written down anywhere that the Home Secretary has to go out the front door of his house.

Kimberly Quinn
The allegations centre around Mrs Quinn's nanny
"If all Cabinet ministers from this administration and previous administrations had been banned from singing it might make the world a more tuneful place. But Cabinet ministers are entitled to sing," he said.

And the revelation certainly seems to have added yet another element to the already convoluted affair.

In the most recent development, the home secretary has faced allegations that he not only helped get the nanny of his ex-lover a visa, but also intervened in a second application for a visa for Austria.

He has denied all the allegations but there appears little chance of the crisis abating.

And, while the prime minister continues to offer him public support, his critics are becoming more vocal.

Cabinet colleagues

Labour backbencher Bob Marshall-Andrews went so far as to suggest Mr Blunkett's behaviour suggested he was "unbalanced" and should resign.

And veteran backbencher Gwyneth Dunwoody suggested the home secretary might ask if he was doing the job he was paid for properly.

Michael Howard
Mr Howard taunted Mr Blair over biography
The pressure is certainly building on Mr Blunkett on a number of fronts.

Michael Howard once again taunted the prime minister during question time with the biography of the home secretary in which he criticises his cabinet colleagues. That will be constantly used by the opposition over the coming weeks and months.

There are the inquiries into the visa allegations and his use of official perks and there was the recent claim of personal arrogance levelled at him from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Then there is the continuing battle over Mr Blunkett's claims that his former lover's son is his and that he is also the father of her unborn child.

There is now widespread speculation in Westminster that next week might, one way or another, be crunch time for the home secretary.

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