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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 19:25 GMT
Why Blunkett had to go
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

David Blunkett's resignation had become inevitable.

David Blunkett
Blunkett had no choice but to quit
The phrase "no favours but slightly quicker" will prove to be his political epitaph.

Because, despite his continuing denials that he did anything wrong, it was absolutely clear that the emails uncovered by the Budd inquiry were fatal.

They amount to the infamous "smoking gun."

And, crucially, the continuing crisis was beginning to damage the prime minister who had been unbending in his support for the home secretary.

Even the suggestion that - accidentally or otherwise - Mr Blunkett's involvement in the visa application had led to it being fast-tracked goes to the heart of the issues of trust, truthfulness and integrity which have been buffeting the government.

Second allegations

There were other issues that were adding to the corrosive, drip, drip of poison that was eating away at his position.

His stinging attacks on his colleagues in a new biography, second allegations - also denied - of a separate visa incident, his use of Parliamentary perks for his mistress, his continuing battle over access to the child he believes is his - all were combining to weaken his position on an almost daily basis.

Kimberly Quinn
The Quinn affair was casting a long shadow
These may in themselves have proved fatal - it was becoming increasingly difficult, for example, for him not to appear distracted from the main job as home secretary.

Finally, of course, he started losing the support of his colleagues both on the backbenches and inside the cabinet.

Ultimately, he may well have lost the support of the prime minister, who was genuinely eager to keep him on board.

Even at the last, the prime minister said the home secretary had left with his "integrity intact".

Key issue

But Mr Blair also had no option but to let his man go once it became clear the Budd investigation had uncovered new facts Mr Blunkett "did not remember".

This is the end of Mr Blunkett's political career for the foreseeable future.

Charles Clarke
Clarke will take over key role
Twice-disgraced Peter Mandelson was eventually rehabilitated, but it is hard to see at what point in the future Tony Blair would be in a position to bring Mr Blunkett back.

Trust is certain to be a key issue in the looming general election and this affair is likely to be used against the Labour party in that poll.

It will certainly throw a long shadow over Mr Blunkett for some considerable time to come.

But it is also a severe blow to the prime minister who had been relying on his tough, authoritarian home secretary to provide one of the key planks of his election campaign and future political programme.

Law and order and security have been given absolutely fundamental status in the government's programme.

Obvious successor

Mr Blunkett also provided the frontbench with a genuine man-of-the-people who adopted a straight-talking style deliberately designed to appeal to working class voters as well as Tory supporters.

But the bottom line was that keeping him would have proved hugely more damaging to the government and New Labour than letting him go.

His replacement, Charles Clarke, is a similarly tough, no-nonsense politician who is in many ways an obvious successor.

Just how eager he will be to adopt the same hard-line approach as Mr Blunkett remains to be seen.

In the meantime, ministers will be bracing themselves for a torrid time as the fallout from this affair continues to rock them.

This affair may be over for Mr Blunkett, but it is unlikely the opposition parties will simply turn their backs on it.

David Blunkett denies he did anything wrong

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