» Monday, October 31, 2005

David Blunkett

Asked what the Prime Minister had meant when he had said earlier that he knew Mr. Blunkett was "looking into" the share allegations, and also, should people infer that Mr. Blunkett would sell the shares today, the PMOS said that Mr. Blunkett would be making his position clear about the shares later on today.

Asked what the timetable was on a statement, the PMOS said it was up to Mr. Blunkett and his team.

Asked if the Prime Minister had been made aware of what the position was, the PMOS said he was not going to get into the processology of it all. The only important thing was that Mr. Blunkett would make the position about the shares clear.

Asked if that would then be the end of the matter, the PMOS said he thought so.

Asked if it could be taken that the Prime Minister’s advice or instructions to Mr. Blunkett were to sell the shares, the PMOS replied that this was a matter that Mr. Blunkett would make up his own mind on, and he would make his position clear.

Put to the PMOS that it didn’t take very long for people to realise that there was a potential conflict of interest, the PMOS said there were all kinds of assumptions built into the question which were best dealt with by Mr. Blunkett in his statement.

Asked how easy it would be for Mr. Blunkett to sell his shares, the PMOS said again they were matters best dealt with by Mr. Blunkett.

Asked if Mr. Blunkett would make up his own mind with regards to the shares, or with regards to whether or not the shares complied with the Ministerial Code, the PMOS said that Mr. Blunkett would make clear the position of the shares.

Asked if the investigation of the Cabinet Secretary had now been concluded, the PMOS said that what he had said this morning was that we were seeking advice. He did not, however, announce an inquiry, despite what was reported on the BBC.

Asked if that advice had been given, the PMOS said again that he was not going to get involved in processology, but rather that Mr. Blunkett would make a statement on the position of the shares.

Asked if we were no longer seeking advice, the PMOS replied that advice had been sought and given.

Asked if Mr. Blunkett had seen the Prime Minister this afternoon, the PMOS said that as he had said earlier, he was not going to get into a running commentary of conversations between the Prime Minister and others.

Asked if the statement was purely about the shares, and would Mr. Blunkett still be in the Government, the PMOS said: yes. The PMOS told people that the Prime Minister’s full support was obvious by what he said at lunchtime today.

Asked what would people say that if Mr. Blunkett was selling his shares, that might suggest something "pretty dodgy" had gone on in the first place, the PMOS said it was better to hear what Mr. Blunkett had to say first, rather than jumping to judgments in advance.

Asked if No10 would be putting out a statement afterwards, the PMOS said: no.

Asked if people had to assume, therefore, that the Prime Minister was happy, the PMOS replied that people could take it that the Prime Minister would be content with what Mr. Blunkett had decided to do.

Put to the PMOS that at lunchtime, the Prime Minister had said he gave Mr. Blunkett his confidence, but did he actually mean to say his "full confidence", the PMOS said that he thought people were over-analysing words. Mr. Blunkett had the full support of the Prime Minister.

Put to the PMOS that words, and how they were put, often gave an indication of what people really thought, and the implication was that "confidence" and not "full confidence" implied something less, the PMOS said he had answered the question.

Asked even if Mr. Blunkett divested himself of shares, he would not have cleared any error of judgement, the PMOS again it was better to read Mr. Blunkett’s statement and then make a judgment.

Asked if the Prime Minister believed there was any ambiguity in the rules set out in the Ministerial Code, the PMOS said that Mr. Blunkett had sought clarification on that matter. It was in everyone’s interests that clarification was given, and he had no doubt that Sir Gus O’Donnell would do that.

Asked what form that would be in, the PMOS said it was a matter for Sir Gus.

Asked if that would happen today, the PMOS said that again, it was a matter for Sir Gus.

Asked if that clarification would involve re-writing that part of the Ministerial Code, or would it rather be a verbal clarification from the Cabinet Secretary, the PMOS said he would not have anticipated the former.

Put to the PMOS that the Code was issued by the Prime Minister, so why was Sir Gus in charge of the Code of conduct, the PMOS said that in any code, there were issues which were inevitably a matter for interpretation, therefore people wanted to check that their interpretation was correct.

Asked what was Mr. Blunkett going to do with the profit, and did he deal with the question in his statement, the PMOS said the journalist was making an assumption. It would be obvious from what was said, that that was not necessarily correct.

Asked if the Prime Minister viewed the entire incident as trivial, or did he see it as something important, the PMOS replied that questions had been asked, and questions would be answered. That was what we had been trying to do. In terms of the Government’s own programme, last week, it had been focused on education; today the Prime Minister had met Commissioner Blair to talk about security. Those were very important matters.

Briefing took place at 13:00 | Search for related news


  1. The government draws up a "ministerial code of conduct" supposedly to prevent corrupt practices. But as it’s only voluntary, and the ultimate responsibility for enforcing it lies with the prime minister, it can clearly be broken at will if the transgressor is regarded as a sufficiently valuable prime ministerial henchman. Corrupt or what?

    What is needed in the UK is a written constitution which ensures that government is fully accountable and that it works to enforceable rules and limits on its powers, and empowers citizens to invoke legal processes to call governments to account at any time when these rules and limits seem to have been broken. What has long exceeded its shelf-life is a system which encourages arrogance, corruption and even criminal behaviour (see the illegal invasion of Iraq) by placing huge power, discretion and powers of patronage in the hands of prime ministers.

    Comment by Michael McCarthy — 1 Nov 2005 on 1:46 pm | Link
  2. Well now he’s gone, but not admitting culpability of course. Merely that his position is ‘untenable’.

    There’s still no moral or ethical dimension to any of the Downing Street comments. These guys just do what they think they can get away with.

    Where’s the probity, decency or even self respect in any of this?

    And will he be clinging on to his Grace and Favour residence, allowances, ministerial car etc? Watch this space for the payoffs………

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 2 Nov 2005 on 11:48 am | Link
  3. In response to Chuck Unsworth’s question:

    No. Mr. Blunkett won’t keep getting Ministerial allowances. These are paid by Parliament, not by the Government, so in accordance with Parliament’s rules he will now drop down to the normal level of allowance as recieved by most MP’s (ie those who are not ministers).

    I would imagine that he won’t have a Ministerial car anymore wither, as these are provided by the department – and he no longer works there.

    Comment by James — 2 Nov 2005 on 2:45 pm | Link
  4. I wouldn’t bet on it. Blair has always managed to ensure that he, his family and his cronies are all very well taken care of. Just take a look at how they’ve worked the systems so far……

    I’m not so concerned about that but it’s the ongoing sanctimonious claptrap which gets to me.

    Comment by Chuck Unsworth — 3 Nov 2005 on 1:04 pm | Link

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