Former Home Secretary Visits York Sixth Formers
5:49pm 11th April 2013
Former Home Secretary and Sheffield MP for more than 25 years, David Blunkett visited Queen Ethelburga’s Collegiate near York.
Mr Blunkett spoke to Year 11,12 and 13 students, sharing with them his own school experiences, his life in politics and his determination that his blindness would not affect his role on the global stage as a member of Tony Blair’s government.
Remembering back to when he became the country’s youngest councillor when he was elected onto Sheffield Council at the age of just 22, Mr Blunkett said: “I learnt a vital lesson in the early days of politics that you have to temper your anger or pay the consequences. I was once in a council meeting at the town hall and was getting fed up with some of my Labour colleagues so just stormed out of the room, but somehow I missed the door and ended up in a large broom cupboard. I then had to decide whether I would spend the next hour and a half in there or admit defeat and come back out, which I did.”
Speaking about his later life and his role in Tony Blair’s new government as the Education and Employment Secretary in 1997, he talked about the allowances that had to be made for his lack of sight and how sometimes not everything went to plan in the early days.
“I had made sure that the Department had loaded computer software to help with emails and that there was a braille transcriber to turn written words into braille which I could then read. After a few days I went over to brief the Prime Minister about a subject which luckily I knew inside out, because I could not understand a word of the braille report which had been produced for me. On return to the Department I asked the civil servants in the office whether everything was ok with the transcriber and it transpired that they had bought it from Sweden and it was still set for Swedish braille!”
Mr Blunkett then went on to share some anecdotes about meeting Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Nicolas Sarkozy. He also described the aftermath of September 11 2001 as “the most difficult thing to deal with” in his life, when he was then Home Secretary.
Thanking Mr Blunkett for his fascinating insight into the world of politics, the Principal, Mr Steven Jandrell, said it was an honour and a privilege to have such an influential politician visit Queen Ethelburga’s and that the students had been delighted by the wit, enthusiasm and intellect that flowed in Mr Blunkett’s speech.
Caption: QE Head Boy, Elliot Bell, who intends to study politics at Cambridge, meets David Blunkett.
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