- Served as Education & Employment Secretary
- Served as Home Secretary
- Member of the House of Lords
- Honorary Doctorate, Haifa University
- Honorary Doctorate, University of Huddersfield
- Awarded a peerage in 2015
Early life and education
Born on 6 June 1947, Blunkett was blind from birth and was born into an impoverished family in Sheffield. Educated at schools for the blind in Sheffield and Shrewsbury, Blunkett spent six years attending evening and day-release classes to attain the qualifications necessary to attend the University of Sheffield, graduating with a degree in Political Theory and Institutions.
After graduating, Blunkett became the youngest ever-councillor in Britain, sitting on Sheffield City Council at the age of 22 while studying as a mature student. He served on Sheffield City Council from 1970 to 1988, including serving as Leader from 1980 to 1987, and also sat on South Yorkshire County Council between 1973 and 1977. His profile grew while leader of the council and he was elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee in 1983.
Career in parliament
Secretary of State for Education
Blunkett became the Secretary of State for Education and Employment after Labour’s landslide victory in 1997. He became the first blind cabinet minister and performed a crucial role because of Blair’s election emphasis on education.
During his time as education secretary, Blunkett worked to enhance basic standards of literacy and numeracy, while also ensuring class sizes were cut. He was also instrumental in the introduction of Sure Start.Blunkett also oversaw significant investment in higher education, drastically expanding the number of students who attended university.
In 2001, Blunkett was promoted to Home Secretary. Following the September 11 attacks, Blunkett introduced new anti-terrorism measures including the detention, without trial, of foreign nationals who could not be deported. He also authorised MI5 to begin to collect telephone communications data.During his tenure, refugee numbers dropped from 110,000 to less than 30,000 and crime fell to an all-time low with the introduction of 15,000 police officers and 6,500 community support officers. In 2003, Blunkett introduced substantial fees for visa and work permits for the first time.
Blunkett resigned as Home Secretary in 2004. He briefly returned to the cabinet in 2005, serving as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, but resigned later that year after questions were raised about a conflict of interest over his directorship of a company bidding for government contracts, something of which he was later cleared.
After continuing to serve as a backbencher, Blunkett announced he would not contest the 2015 election.
Following his parliamentary career, he became chair of the David Ross Education Trust and was appointed Professor of Politics in Practice at the University of Sheffield in June 2015.Currently, Blunkett sits in the House of Lords and is President of the Association for Citizenship Teaching, a subject area he introduced while education secretary. He is also the chairman of the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Listen to Lord Blunkett's Leaders Great Britain podcast.
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