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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 14:07 GMT
What might Blunkett do next?
By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

David Blunkett quit the Cabinet declaring that, while he would not be returning, he still wanted to contribute to public life.

David Blunkett
Where next for Blunkett?
Which has raised the inevitable question of what he might do now he has time on his hands.

Former ministers who have either resigned, been sacked or lost their Commons seats have a number of routes open to them after they have collected their 18,000 payoffs (and before you ask, yes, you can collect it twice).

For many of those departing since Tony Blair became prime minister, all they had to do was find a few things to keep them occupied until they were brought back into the government.

Peter Mandelson is probably the best example of that. He busied himself with life on the backbenches and in his Hartlepool constituency when he first left the cabinet in 1998 but was brought back by Mr Blair less than a year later.

He then resigned again in 2001 but, once again, did not have to wait that long to be given another plum job by Tony Blair in 2004, this time as European Commissioner.

Quit politics

Beverley Hughes resigned as immigration minister in 2004 after a row over visa checks but was back as children's minister the following year.

Others, however, have been less lucky, or have simply chosen to sit on the backbenches or have left politics altogether.

Jonathan Aitken
Aitken took charity work

One look at Labour's benches shows a huge number of former frontbenchers with a smattering - including Stephen Byers and Geoffrey Robinson - who were either sacked or resigned.

So, if Mr Blunkett decides to stay on the backbenches - and there has been no suggestion he is planning to quit politics altogether - he will have plenty of advice over what to do next.

Directorships, after-dinner speaking or writing are always good alternative sources of income and this time Mr Blunkett will make sure he takes the proper parliamentary advice, and maybe even accept it.

As former Tory leadership contender Michael Portillo found when he lost his seat in the 1997 general election, and since he has quit Westminster politics, if you can "do TV" there are opportunities in the ever growing broadcasting sector.

Other ex-MPs, including Jerry Hayes, Michael Brown and Matthew Parris, just walked up a couple of flights of stairs from the Commons to join the press gallery as pundits.

Major force

Charity work has also provided an outlet for senior politicians fallen on difficult times - notably John Stonehouse, jailed after faking his own death in 1974 and Jonathan Aitken jailed for perjury in 1999.

Robin Cook
Cook flourished on backbenches

Needless to say, being sacked or suffering an enforced resignation, is not necessarily a bar to holding a directorship or two - already many MPs' favourite part-time work.

In Mr Blunkett's case, leaving with the prime minister praising his integrity must help in the search for future employment.

On the other hand many former ministers, and even prime ministers have been entirely content with trying to carve out a role for themselves as significant figures on the backbenches.

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, before his untimely death, had already become one of the most important figures on the Labour benches, while ex-Tory prime minister Sir Edward Heath remained as a major force on the Tory benches for many years.

But ultimately, as shown by Mr Mandelson's appointment to one of Europe's top jobs, it is the prime minister who has the power of patronage or influence over any number of public appointments

So probably the only safe thing to say about David Blunkett's future is "watch this space".

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