by RAY FLEMING
ALTHOUGH David Blunkett's judgement may not be all that good these days, it's better than Tony Blair's. When the awkward matter of the fast-tracking of the visa of Kimberly Quinn's nanny came to public attention Mr Blair immediately said that he was sure Mr Blunkett would be found to have done nothing wrong. But he was proved wrong when Mr Blunkett took the initiative in resigning. Last week, when it emerged that Mr Blunkett had ignored official advice about taking a new job while very briefly out of ministerial office, Downing Street said that the prime minister had “full confidence” in his re-appointed minister and Mr Blair has subsequently made clear that he has no intention of suggesting to Mr Blunkett that his further mistake is one too many. This time the facts could not be clearer. The Ministerial Code says: “On leaving office, ministers should seek advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments about any appointmenet they wish to take up within two years.” The requirement to seek advice was brought to Mr Blunkett's notice by letter from the chairman of the committee, Lord Mayhew, on three occasions after he resigned as Home Secretary, but he ignored it. His defence is that he had once been told that seeking the Committee's advice was voluntary not mandatory, but having received three letters it is unlikely than any such ambiguity remained in his mind. It is much more likely that he knew he would be advised against taking the controversial but potentially remunerative directorship with DNA Bioscience which is at the heart of his present difficulties. It is remarkable that he agreed to become a non-executive director and invested 15'000 pounds in the company only two weeks before the general election whose result he knew was virtually certain to make him a minister again. Mr Blunkett has had a remarkable career but it seems likely that his judgement has been affected by the traumatic Kimberly Quinn episode. Mr Blair's indulgence of his failings is a serious blow to the hope that Labour would reverse the fall in ministerial standards that contributed to the Conservatives' defeat in 1997.

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