David Blunkett is a British Labour Party politician who became the first blind person to hold a ministerial position in Great Britain. Blind since birth and raised in poverty, he emerged as a successful politician through his sheer determination. After losing his father in an industrial accident, he and his mother were left virtually penniless, but with immense willpower, he earned a place at Sheffield University. Soon he became a Labour councilor and was later appointed as the leader of Sheffield Council. He chaired the Labour Party during the 1990s, gradually transforming himself into one of the leading voices calling for modernization of the party. First as the Shadow Secretary of health, and later the Shadow Secretary of education, he paved his way towards becoming the Secretary of Education in Tony Blair’s cabinet in 1997. His success as the Education Secretary saw him promoted to Home Secretary after the 2001 election. But his personal affairs interfered with his political career and he had little option but to quit the cabinet. Along with being a politician he is also a popular conference and after dinner speaker and has co-authored a number of publications. He continues to serve as a politician and his life is a source of inspiration to millions of people around the globe.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on June 6, 1947, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, to Arthur Blunkett, a foreman for the East Midlands Gas Board, and his wife Doris Blunkett. David was blind from birth because of improperly developed optic nerves.
In 1959, the family faced a disaster when his father died in an industrial accident in which he fell into a vat of boiling water while at work. His family was left poverty stricken after the incident.
He received his early education from the schools for the blind in Sheffield and Shrewsbury. He went to the Royal National College for the Blind in Shrewsbury. At school, he turned down the piano lessons and insisted on a wider education.
Later he got enrolled at the University of Sheffield and earned a BA honors degree in Political Theory and Institutions.
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In 1970, he was appointed the youngest-ever councilor on Sheffield City Council. In 1973, he obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from Huddersfield College of Education.
He served on Sheffield City Council until 1988, leading the council from 1980 to 1987. During his time as the leader in 1980s, he built up support within the Labour Party and was elected to the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
In the 1987 general elections, he was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheffield Brightside with a large majority in a safe Labour seat and later became a party spokesman on local government.
In 1992, he joined the shadow cabinet and was appointed as the Shadow Secretary of State for Health, a post he served until 1994. Then he became Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment until the general election of 1997.
After Labour Party’s victory in the 1997 general election, he was appointed as the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Great Britain's first blind cabinet minister. As Secretary of State, he pursued tough policies, ready to take on the teaching unions and determined to ensure basic standards of literacy and numeracy.
In 2001, at the commencement of Labour Party’s second term, he was promoted to the post of Home Secretary following the general election. He held the position until 2004, when he resigned following highly publicized matters related to his personal life.
Following the 2005 general elections, he returned to the cabinet as the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions but was forced to resign following the controversy relating to external business interests in the period when he did not hold a cabinet post.
In 2008, he featured in Channel Five's reality show ‘Banged Up’. He also appeared in a celebrity version of TV Series ‘Mastermind’ and took part as a celebrity chef in British television series ‘The F Word’.
He is also a writer and has authored or co-authored several books including ‘On a Clear Day’ (1995), an autobiography, and ‘The Blunkett Tapes: My Life in the Bear Pit’ (2006), a diary of his life in the cabinet. He is also a visiting lecturer at the London School of Business and Finance since 2011.
He continues to represent the constituency of Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough as a Member of Parliament. He also serves as the Vice President of the Royal National Institute of Blind People and National Alzheimer’s Society.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1970, he married Ruth Gwynneth Mitchell and the couple had three sons together, Alastair, Hugh and Andrew. In 1990, they got divorced.
In 2004, the ‘News of the World’ revealed his three-year affair with Kimberly Quinn, a journalist and magazine publisher. After much press speculation, it was confirmed through DNA testing that he was the father of Quinn’s eldest child.
In January 2009, he announced that he was engaged to be married to Margaret Williams, a doctor. On 3 October 2009, the couple got married at a church in Sheffield.