Blunkett credits IoS Whitehall editor as key to his latest downfall

By Dominic
Ponsford Pensions Secretary David Blunkett gave “credit to Francis
Elliott” of The Independent on Sunday in his resignation speech on
Wednesday for helping to bring about his downfall.

The IoS
revealed on Sunday that Blunkett had not consulted the Advisory
Committee on Business Appointments about his decision in April to
become a director of DNA testing firm DNA Bioscience – and therefore
breached the ministers’ code.

Whitehall editor Elliott told Press
Gazette: “I was curious as to why, if there was a conflict of interest,
the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments had signed it off.

“I
phoned up Tony Nichols [the clerk] and asked: ‘Did Blunkett seek advice
from you about this?’ There was a silence and then he said he didn’t
and explained what the rules were.

“The only sanction they have
is a moral one: if ministers ask for their advice and ignore it, that
is published in their annual report, and if they don’t ask for advice,
they can tell the press that if an inquiry is made. The committee has a
policy of not broadcasting the information from the rooftops, but it’s
there if you look for it.

“Today is a good day for how the machine should work – the committee did exactly what it should have done.”

The Mail on Sunday has had a team working on the Blunkett story for more than a month.

On
2 October it revealed that Tariq Siddiqi, whose wife Lucy owned DNA
Bioscience, introduced him to the estate agent Sally Anderson, with
whom he was allegedly having an affair. On 16 October, the MoS
published an interview with Anderson that raised further questions
about Blunkett’s links with DNA Bioscience.

On 23 October, the MoS revealed that Blunkett still had a three per cent shareholding in DNA Bioscience.

Blunkett
refused to answer questions from the MoS about his holding in the
company and the following week the paper recruited Conservative MP
David Davies [not the leadership contender] to demand to see the
company’s register of shareholders.

Mail on Sunday editor Peter
Wright said: “This was an excellent piece of journalistic detective
work by a team of reporters led by our investigations editor Dennis
Rice and involved journalists across the newsroom and the city office.”

In his resignation speech, Blunkett condemned the “revelations of Max Clifford”, who represented Sally Anderson, as lies.

Clifford
said: “As I’ve never made any revelations about David Blunkett, it’s a
difficult thing for me to answer. If he’s referring to Sally Anderson,
there are only two people who know exactly what went on in that
relationship.”

● The Scottish Press also claimed a major
political scalp this week with the resignation of Scottish Tory leader
David McLetchie, writes Hamish Mackay.

McLetchie’s downfall was
spearheaded by Paul Hutcheon, Scottish political editor of the
broadsheet Sunday Herald, and Paul Sinclair, political editor of the
tabloid Scottish Daily Record.

Hutcheon prompted the “Taxigate”

affair
by obtaining details under the Freedom of Information Act of
McLetchie’s claims for £11,565 in taxi expenses in five years – the
highest bill in parliament.

Sinclair said: “McLetchie was exposed
as a hypocrite. Rather than deal with this issue seriously at the
start, he tried to confuse the issue. He rubbished the Daily Record and
attacked my personal reputation. This was an arrogant establishment man
who believed he could get away with anything.

“McLetchie’s name will forever be associated with sleaze.”

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