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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The battle for hearts and minds

Gordon Brown's disastrous budget PR gaffe has led to some interesting consequences. I have already reported on this blog how it has led to his approval ratings dropping below those of the Prime Minister himself, now it seems that Blair is using the opening this creates to try and push one of his protégés into directly challenging Gordon for the leadership.

Whether David Milliband actually wants the job badly enough is another matter, but if he runs he could well create a major upset. If he loses of course then the Environment Secretary may well find himself out in the cold for a bit. At that point he may wish to follow the example of other cabinet members and make a bit of money out of government policies.

That is what David Blunkett appears to have done in accepting a job with Texas-based security firm Entrust, which specialises in securing digital information and combating identity theft, earlier this month. The firm already provides software for the Spanish national ID card system and has formally registered an interest in the British project.

The Observer reports that Blunkett is bound by a two-year ban on lobbying British ministers and officials from the date he resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary in November 2005. That does not expire until this November.

His spokeswoman insisted yesterday that he would not be working in Britain for the company and would only advise on overseas work.

Blunkett was one of the government's biggest defenders of identity cards when at the Home Office, before resigning over his involvement in a visa obtained for his lover's nanny. He maintained his interest in the scheme when he re-entered the cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary: ID cards are potentially useful in the fight against benefit fraud.

He has described ID cards as 'not a luxury or a whim - it is a necessity'. Two weeks before he started the job, he wrote in his column for the Sun that ID cards would 'protect our identity from fraudsters, stop illegal foreigners in their tracks, save billions being leeched from our welfare system and beat organised crime'.

Entrust will find such experience and commitment very useful indeed, though most of us will be more sceptical about Blunkett's involvement in such a company.


If David Milliband has any sense (and I believe that he has) he will wait it out until the next leadership election. By which time I think he will be the heir-apparent, rather than having challenged Gordon Brown and be seen as damaging any unity that currently exists.
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