By Ray Fleming DAVID Blunkett may have lost the Home Office but has kept his home. Or, rather, his fourth home. The Prime Minister has decided that Mr Blunkett can remain in the official Belgravia residence he occupied when he was Home Secretary; the lease is presumably open-ended but obviously cannot go beyond the date of the general election.

The implication, however, is clearly that if Labour wins in May, or whenever it is, Mr Blunkett will need the house again when he is given a new department and returns to the Cabinet.

However, the reason given by No 10 Downing Street for this exceptional arrangement is that the security situation requires it; and, in line with established practice for former ministers who might be at risk, Mr Blunkett will also keep his official car and his personal protection officers.

At first sight, and even though Mr Blunkett has a home in Sheffield, a rented cottage in Derbyshire and a house in Wimbledon which is currently rented out, it might seem a considerate move by the Prime Minister to ensure that his former minister still has a roof over his head, however costly to the taxpayer.

His departure from the Home Office was abrupt and personally distressing and the difficulties that must arise from his blindness need to be taken into account.

None the less in approving, or even initiating, these arrangements Mr Blair has shown once again how shameless he is in riding roughshod over established practice in government.

His assertion that Mr Blunkett left the Home Office “with his integrity intact” was simply untrue yet every sign indicates that he will be quickly welcomed back as if he had done nothing wrong.

The interesting question, of course, is which minister will have to move over to make way for him.