David Blunkett resigned as work and pensions secretary today, admitting the row over his failure to consult a watchdog about several extra-parliamentary jobs threatened to "embarrass" the prime minister.
Blunkett's second resignation from the cabinet in less than a year almost certainly ends his career in frontline politics. Downing Street said Tony Blair accepted the resignation "reluctantly", but that Blunkett himself now felt that his position had become "untenable".
Blair said Blunkett left office "with no stain of impropriety against him whatsoever". He had been forced to quit because of the "frenzy" surrounding him, the prime minister said.
At a press conference Blunkett said: "I am guilty of a mistake and I am paying the price for it. I make no bones about saying that is my fault and I stand by it."
But while admitting he should have sought parliamentary permission for his commercial posts, he insisted that "having investments and holding shares in modern Britain is not a crime".
"Everything that has been revealed has shown, with this one exception, that I have not committed any offence that will reduce Tony Blair's confidence in me as a minister."
Blunkett said he had asked to see the prime-minister in Downing Street this morning, and that Tony Blair had asked him to stay. While he was returning from Downing Street to Portcullis House to give evidence to a select committee, he said, he had finally decided that he could not continue in office.
The minister's first resignation, last December, came after a highly public affair with the Spectator publisher Kimberly Quinn, after which an independent inquiry found his office asked for her nanny's visa application to be fast-tracked.
This second resignation from the cabinet will almost certainly prove terminal to Blunkett's remarkable career, which has seen him overcome blindness to become one of Labour's biggest hitters as first education secretary and then home secretary.
Downing Street had defended him until last night, saying his failure to consult the advisory committee on business appointments over jobs with DNA Bioscience, Indepen consulting and a charity, ORT, was a "mistake", but did not affect his ability to do his job, The Guardian reports.
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