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THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND

20-10-2006

As David Blunkett's memoirs are published, was his blindness a problem?Or just the collective insanity of all politicians. Andy Goff offers a few politically incorrect observations.

Earlier this month Mark Warner, a potentially strong candidate for the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency in 2008, dropped out of the game saying on his website “… I want to have a real life”

Professor Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia's Centre For Politics commented “The man's sane. It's the people who run who are insane”

I thought of this comment when reading snippets of David Blunkett's memoirs and heard him reading from them on the radio.

Blunkett comes across as a rather pathetic figure, misunderstood by those around him and a victim of errors and circumstances over which he had no control.

I must say, when he was installed as a cabinet member I thought it was a brave decision all round. Blunkett obvious showed fortitude and resilience by overcoming his blindness sufficiently to want to become an MP. His constituents who voted for him must have thought the same and made a landmark choice. Tony Blair made a similarly brave decision in giving him significant power. Great for all those concerned but wasn't it also blindingly obvious to all and sundry that his blindness would get in the way of the job.

This week he was complaining about having to make a big parliamentary speech in the early days of Labours grasp of power. He kept being sent last minute revisions from Blair, Brown and Campbell. Each revision involved reproduction in Braille format and then he had to scan it so that he could “read” it fluently. By the skin of his teeth, or rather the touch of his finger tips, he did it but sounded as if he had found the experience highly stressful - a situation that even the most gifted sighted person would empathise with.

In his memoir he writes that he and John Prescott had a terrible row when the Deputy Prime Minister looked at him with “hatred and bitterness” How did he know this? One presumes someone told him and that is where the problem lies. A blind man in that situation is reliant on those around to him to act as his eyes. It reminds one of why Jack Straw was complaining about not being able to see people's faces behind a niqāb? He wants to see people's faces so he can make judgments from them.

Blunkett was always going to be out of control of the situation he was in. Recently we've learned that he was urging the use of the Army to machine-gun inmates at Lincoln Prison who rioted. Does this sound like the action of a sane man?

To wield power is one thing but to wield it blindly is quite another.

Of course in Blair's government no cabinet member ever really wielded power as it was all centralised with Blair to keep control. Had Blunkett just kept his head down and his big mouth shut then there's a good chance he would still be doing some cabinet job. He couldn't do it then and he won't do it now - especially with a book to promote and history to re-write.

So are we, the electorate, destined to be governed by the insane that run for office rather than those capable but sane types that would be able to make the right choices.

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