More allegations dog UK's Blunkett


Mon, Sep 19, 2005 - Page 7

Former British interior minister David Blunkett, who resigned from the Blair government last year following claims he abused his position for personal reasons, faced fresh accusations of impropriety on Friday.

Blunkett, who is blind since birth, was returned to government as pensions minister in May, only five months after his resignation, a clear sign of the esteem in which he is held by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

He stepped down from the Cabinet after evidence emergedthat an application for his ex-lover's Filipina nanny to settle permanently in Britain was "fast-tracked" on his orders. As interior minister, immigration formed part of his portfolio.

The matter came to light after the public break-up of Blunkett's relationship with a glamorous -- and married -- US-born magazine publisher, with whom he fathered a child, an affair chronicled by British newspapers.

On Friday, Blunkett rejected claims he similarly abused his position when he was education secretary, the post he held before being interior minister.

A reporter for the New Statesman, a left-leaning British news weekly, alleges a civil servant was asked by Blunkett to find out whether his teenage son from his own long-ended marriage was affected by an exams fiasco.

At the time, in 1998, there was concern that a computer problem meant some results for A-Levels, the end-of-school exams being taken by Blunkett's son that year, were incorrect.

New Statesman reporter Martin Bright, who made the claims, said of Blunkett's alleged actions: "I have no idea what his motivation was."

"I have no idea whether he was simply trying to look out for the best interests of his son. But it is the case that officials within that department or that agency found that behavior shocking," he said.

A spokesman for Blunkett said: "These allegations are not true."

Further political scandal involving him would be a major blow for Blair, who appreciates the minister as one of the most effective and publicly respected members of his government.

Blunkett is renowned for having battled both his blindness and terrible childhood poverty to attend university before entering politics.