California Democratic operative and ardent Anglophile Bob Mulholland calls this conundrum the British Rule: "Why do men go into politics, when they either end up in obscurity or a scandal?
Or is it the American rule?
Consider: As Bernie Kerik bowed out in his bid to be the Bush administration's next homeland secretary because of a nanny problem -- yeah, I know, Kerik had more than just a nanny problem -- British Home Secretary David Blunkett survived weeks of his own nannygate, a choice element in an even messier personal scandal. As the United Kingdom's Independent reported, the divorced Blunkett began an affair with American publisher Kimberly Quinn four months into her marriage. During the three years they were an item, Quinn gave birth to a now 2-year-old son, and she is pregnant with another child. Blunkett is fighting in court to establish his paternity.
Meanwhile, Quinn appears to be behind leaked reports that Blunkett's office fast-tracked the visa process for her son's nanny, gave Quinn two taxpayer-funded first-class train tickets reserved for the spouses of members of Parliament, and had government personnel acting as go-betweens as Blunkett tried to prolong an affair she wanted to end.
Here's another twist: Blunkett has had to rely on aides more than the average politician because he is blind.
When I first arrived in the United Kingdom two weeks ago, the scandal seemed so unfair. Big deal -- Blunkett helped the nanny get her visa quickly. It seemed no biggie, since the nanny wasn't in the country illegally and should have been approved in due course. The train tickets posed a problem, if mitigated by the fact that Blunkett admitted that he made a mistake and repaid the tab. Bully for Prime Minister Tony Blair for backing Blunkett because, he said, "I have actually always said that politicians are entitled to their private lives."
To his credit, I thought, Blunkett wanted to establish paternity so he could provide for his children. As The Economist quipped, Blunkett "may well have achieved a first in being a senior politician determined to prove that he is the father of his mistress' child."
Many reporters clearly didn't like writing about Blunkett's personal life. A Daily Telegraph writer noted how journalists saw Blunkett and Quinn attend events as a couple, but didn't report on the affair until the nanny visa and rail tickets linked the public and private.