Opinion: The truth will be Blunkett's best PR ally

For weeks now the press have been digging for more dirt on the Home Secretary. In fact, they've been at it ever since the news first broke of his unlikely relationship with Kimberly Quinn, the married publisher of The Spectator.

Many right-wing hacks and Tory MPs thought it most unfair that David Blunkett seemed to be getting away with his secret liaison, in sharp contrast to that other Spectator adulterer, Boris Johnson. Certainly the BBC took the view that, since he was single, what the Home Secretary did in his private life was his business and so ignored the story.

That all changed when his ex-lover's allegation that he helped with a visa application for her Filipino nanny appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Conservatives could hardly contain themselves and shadow home secretary David Davis was on the airwaves within hours to demand a full enquiry.

He had obviously forgotten about Butler and Hutton; Blair hadn't and quickly instructed Blunkett to set one up. The added value of this bogus exercise is that, at press conferences and in the House of Commons, all questions can be fobbed off by saying 'wait for the results of the enquiry'. It would have been far better for the Tories to adopt a high moral tone like the Lib Dems and keep out of it, secure in the knowledge that the tabloids can be relied on to dish the dirt for them.

Will the Home Secretary survive? Blunkett has the full backing of the Prime Minister, but then so did Peter Mandelson. I remember writing how Scottish First Minister Henry McLeish was certain to survive allegations about financial irregularity. Within days he had resigned.

In fact, the Home Secretary's career relies on how well the Government PR machine handles the scandal. McLeish would have stayed if his media minders hadn't been so incompetent, and Mandy would have survived if he didn't have Campbell ready to stab him in the back.

If I were Blunkett, of all the people I would like to have on my side in Downing Street, David Hill would be my number one choice. Unlike most of the Government he is trusted to tell the truth; on the other hand, Quinn has plenty of PR experience. My money would be on Quinn to win this PR battle.

There are few hard and fast rules for dealing with a crisis like this, but one is not to tell lies; if Blunkett has, he will be finished. Much, though, depends on how determined the media is to get a scalp. It may well be that The Sun and the Daily Mail like the Home Secretary's law and order agenda so much they will go easy on him - but I doubt it.

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