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David Blunkett announces his departure from the House of Commons at next year’s General Election
Last night, the Rt. Hon. David Blunkett, Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, announced to his constituency annual meeting that he would not be seeking re-election.
In his letter to local party members, Mr Blunkett said:
In making the decision as to whether to step down at the next General Election after what will be 28 years in Parliament (and 45 years in total as an elected representative in the area), I have done my best to balance my own personal considerations with those of both our local party and the electorate of Brightside and Hillsborough.
This has been by far the most difficult political decision I have ever made, in a lifetime of extremely difficult decisions. Not least because members (and it is true of the majority of local people) have always given me unconditional but not uncritical support. I owe so much to so many people who have made it possible for me to play a significant part in public life and to have the privilege of eight years in the Cabinet of a Labour Government, of which I remain extremely proud.
Next year will see ten years on the backbenches, five in opposition. Whilst I have been able to use the experience and the clout which came from having been a Cabinet Minister for the benefit of the constituency in getting a hearing, contributing to policy and providing a voice for local people and for Sheffield at national level, it is clear that the leadership of the Party wish to see new faces in Ministerial office and a clear break with the past.
For me, being in a position to make decisions and thereby make a difference, has always been paramount, and I hope in future to continue to promote our success and values, and to make a continuing contribution to public service and the social and voluntary sector.
Working with people to enable them to change the world for the better and therefore to practise what I preach about participation and active citizenship has been fundamental. It is the Labour Party working with and in the community that brings about lasting change.
Yet there does come a time when a fresh approach and the energy that goes with it outweigh other considerations, and I believe that for the Party and for the constituency, as well as for me personally, that moment has come. Whilst I still have the drive, enthusiasm and commitment I have always had, sustaining this for a further six years (and a year before the General Election and with fixed term Parliaments, that is what staying on would mean) would not only be challenging but could lead to a less effective service to constituents. In simple terms, I would rather leave while I am still giving 100%.
Mr Blunkett, reflecting on the three Cabinet posts he held in Tony Blair’s Government added:
“I was privileged to be able to lead on ground-breaking policies, from the introduction of universal early years and nursery provision, to the transformation of education in our schools, and the security of the nation post the 11th September attack in the United States in 2001.
“It was a privilege to enable young people to have a job, to access higher education frozen under the previous Government, and to be able to oversee the most substantial fall in crime in recent history. All of us build on what has come before and learn the lessons that change often takes more time and greater patience than is acceptable to any Minister intent on immediate improvement and early outcomes. Many of the seeds I was able to sow, from welfare reform to lifelong learning and from the new challenge of cyber security to the debate on values and citizenship, are only now bearing fruit.
“Above all this is a moment when we need to offer hope, a belief in Government as a means of supporting people in making their own decisions and coping with unprecedentedly rapid change in an increasingly global political environment. Helping with the transitions of life, providing greater security and overcoming the fears generated by uncertainty, can only be achieved by a Labour Government committed to giving a voice to those excluded from the power which comes with wealth and privilege.”
“Ed Miliband is committed to leading Britain through the challenges ahead, to offering that hope and transforming our country in order to take on both the opportunities and pitfalls of globalisation, and to hear and respond to fears and concerns of men and women across the country. That is why all of us have an obligation to ensure that we elect a Labour Government and put Ed Miliband in Downing Street on May 7th next year.”
Local Constituency Labour Party (CLP) Secretary and Councillor Sioned-Mair Richards said:
“Working with David has been great. I'm really disappointed that he's standing down. We all wanted him to stay on. He'll be almost impossible to replace. We now have a huge challenge ahead to find someone with the right values, the right vision and a real connection with and commitment to representing local people.”
CLP Chair Simon Newsum said:
“David has given great service to the people of Brightside & Hillsborough for over forty years – as a Councillor, as council leader and then as our MP, I know he is very highly thought of by the people he has represented.
“Over the years many people have said to me, ‘I don't always agree with his politics, but he is a brilliant local MP for our part of Sheffield.’ He's always stood up for us. I think this is great testament to his work and commitment to our area."
Rt. Hon. David Blunkett MP
David Blunkett’s political career dates back to his election as a councillor in Sheffield at the age of 22, his leadership of the Council in the 1980s, and his election to Parliament in 1987. After serving on the Shadow Cabinet, he became Education and Employment Secretary in 1997, Home Secretary in 2001, and Work and Pensions Secretary in 2005.
Since leaving government, in addition to completing his diaries, “The Blunkett Tapes”, David has undertaken a series of major pieces of work, including on anti-poverty, affordable credit and social mobility. He completed a review of the future role of the community and voluntary sector; chaired a major review of dedicated school transport; and undertook a review of police accountability for the Home Office, which helped shape a subsequent Government White Paper. He also served on the Speaker’s Conference, which recommended substantial changes to improve representation in the House of Commons.
As well as working on behalf of his constituency and contributing to a number of voluntary and not-for-profit organisations, David has most recently being a constructive thorn in the side of the Coalition Government. Indeed, following publication of National Volunteer Programme, a blueprint for a large-scale youth volunteering initiative, he founded the Future For Youth Foundation, a new charity that will create meaningful, supported volunteering and social action placements for young people out of work, education or training.
In addition to this, in September 2012 he published In Defence of Politics Revisited, where he set out a range of proposals to increase faith in, and improve the working of, democratic politics. In July 2013, Sheffield University announced David had become a Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics, in the world's first Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics. Alongside this, he was awarded the status of Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences.
David also sits on the board of the National Citizen's Service Trust, a voluntary community service programme for 16 and 17 year olds. From 2013 to 2014 he chaired a parliamentary inquiry with the Charities Aid Foundation into how giving to charities could be boosted. This reported in June 2014, making recommendations ranging from the inclusion of a ‘social action’ section on UCAS forms to the creation of a post-careers advice service, for those who are retiring but wish to continue giving in their community.
Between June 2013 and May 2014, David led a review into local oversight of schools and the raising of standards for the leader Ed Miliband and the Shadow Education Secretary. The ‘Blunkett Report’ was published in May 2014, and called for the creation of new independent Directors of School Standards to operate between local authorities. These directors would focus on bringing greater coherence to the process of school creation, raising standards and improving local accountability.