Blunkett told local party members in a letter that, after 28 years as an MP, it was “by far the most difficult political decision I have ever made, in a lifetime of extremely difficult decisions”.
He spent eight years serving in Tony Blair’s Labour cabinet – and suffered two high-profile resignations – but said that the leadership of the party clearly now wished to see “new faces in Ministerial office and a clear break with the past”.
He added: “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.”
Blunkett said he would rather leave “while I am still giving 100 per cent”, rather than stay on until 2020 when that might no longer be the case.
He said he had been privileged as a member of the cabinet to lead on “ground-breaking policies”, including the introduction of universal early years and nursery provision and the “transformation of education in our schools” as education secretary, and the “security of the nation post the 11th September attack in the United States in 2001″ and overseeing the “the most substantial fall in crime in recent history” as home secretary.
But he also suggested that he had played a part in some of the most controversial policies introduced by the current coalition government.
He told party members: “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.”
Blunkett’s political career began when he was elected as a councillor in Sheffield at the age of 22, before leading the city council in the 1980s, and becoming an MP in 1987.
After Labour’s win in the 1997 general election, he became education and employment secretary, then home secretary in 2001, and work and pensions secretary in 2005.
Since leaving government, he has published his diaries, and – among other pieces of work – has completed a review of the future role of the community and voluntary sector, chaired a review of school transport, and reviewed police accountability for the Home Office.
Between June 2013 and May 2014, he led a review for Labour into local oversight of schools and the raising of standards.
Blunkett was out of the country this week and unavailable for interview, but he said – in an interview for the Government Equalities Office earlier this year – that his advice to other disabled people wishing to enter politics was to “have the confidence to be yourself”.
He added: “Take me as I am or leave me has always been my attitude to life and remains so today.”
25 June 2014