Michael Howard accuses Blair of leading a "Grubby Government"
The investigation by former senior civil servant Sir Alan Budd revealed a chain of events which linked the former Home Secretary to the speeding up of a successful visa application from his ex-lover's nanny, while his 44-page report left an "open verdict" on whether Mr Blunkett deliberately ordered the fast-tracking of the case.
But as the inquiry findings exposed a state of chaos and confusion in the Home Office, where documents went missing and both ministers and officials discovered they had no memory or recollection of what really happened, the Conservative Leader said the scandal was typical of a discredited administration led by a discredited Prime Minister.
He protested: "Tony Blair leads a grubby government, which gives favours for finance. A grubby government that is a stranger to the truth. A grubby government that intimidates people who don't agree with it. In short a grubby government low on integrity, light on honesty, and lacking in all humility."
He criticised the way the Prime Minister had prejudiced the Budd Report by saying he expected it to exonerate Mr Blunkett. "A few years ago, for a serving Prime Minister to prejudice the outcome of an inquiry would have been extraordinary. Now it's just part for the course," Mr Howard said.
And blasting the way Labour chiefs have followed a standard pattern of initially denying any wrong-doing, then muddying the waters before finally trying to brazen it out when found to be in the wrong, he added: "This whole saga is one more indictment on the charge sheet against the Blair government. It is yet another damning critique of the values of those who govern Britain today. The Ecclestone affair, the Hindujas, the Mittal affair, the naming of David Kelly, the sacking of Martin Sixsmith, and the burying of bad news. Mr Blunkett is not the first of Mr Blair's ministers to have lost his job because of misconduct.
"Peter Mandelson, twice, Geoffrey Robinson, Keith Vaz, Stephen Byers, Beverley Hughes. The week that saw the departure of Mr Blunkett witnessed the reappearance of Alastair Campbell. Like Mandelson, Byers, and soon no doubt like Blunkett, he is back at the heart of Labour. It's Mr Blair's revolving door. Heads don't roll in this government. They simply take time out."
The Opposition Leader said: "The Blair government is unaccountable and arrogant. It is a stranger to the truth. Blair's government is a grubby government."
Mr Howard went on to buttress the call made earlier by Shadow Home Secretary David Davis for a full judicial inquiry into the Blunkett affair.
Describing the Budd findings as "unsatisfactory", leaving an "open verdict" on the case, Mr Davis protested: "There is more an absence of answers than real answers. These people have had collective amnesia about what happened. It leaves a cloud over David Blunkett, and that is not very good for public life and very bad for all the civil servants in the Home Office."
Mr Davis added: "A judicial inquiry is needed to clear up the massive hole at the centre of the Budd Inquiry. We need to establish whether senior civil servants broke the Civil Service Code of Conduct in actions to assist David Blunkett, in accelerating the visa application, and in the way they presented his case to the public - particularly if they were deliberately misleading or involved in a possible cover-up.
"I called for a full inquiry, led by a judge, on the day the allegations were first made. The Budd report shows just how much that is still needed. Statements must be taken on oath, computers must be impounded, and a full-ranging remit must be granted if we are to get to the bottom of this matter."
This news is supplied under license from www.conservatives.com
Promoted by Mark Slater on behalf of Torridge & West Devon Conservatives