British Prime Minister Tony Blair swiftly replaced him with tough-talking Charles Clarke.
Mr Blunkett’s doomed relationship with Ms Quinn proved his inevitable undoing as he had to admit his office had been involved in “fast-tracking” her Filipino nanny Leoncia Casalme’s application for leave to stay in Britain.
But Mr Blunkett made clear he felt he personally had not been involved in wrongdoing and also made plain his commitment to pursue his legal action to establish that he is the father of Ms Quinn’s two-year-old child.
In emotional TV interviews, Mr Blunkett said of the boy: “He will want to know not just that his father actually cared enough about him to sacrifice his career, but he will want to know, I hope, that his mother has some regret.”
Mr Blunkett’s resignation became politically inevitable yesterday as members of the cabinet and senior Labour backbenchers made clear their patience with his personal problems had been tested enough.
The end came as Mr Blunkett issued a statement through the Press Association just after 6pm.
Mr Blunkett ended his statement by saying: “I have always been honest about my recollection of events. But any perception of this application being speeded up requires me to take responsibility.
“That is why, with enormous regret, I have tendered my resignation to the prime minister today.”
Mr Blair replied in a letter, saying: “It is with great regret that I have accepted your resignation from the government this afternoon.
“You have made real and lasting change to Britain.”
MPs and pressure groups all accepted Mr Blunkett’s departure with regret - but acknowledged the inevitability of his resignation. Mr Blunkett made no secret of the emotional turmoil involved in his departure when he toured the TV studios.
In a series of interviews he said: “If I was ever going to see my youngest son again, if I was ever going to hold him as I did as a baby in my arms, there were going to be consequences.
“I hadn’t fully grasped the enormity of those consequences.
“But in time people will understand what I have been through, what I am prepared to go through, what I was prepared to sacrifice along with my three elder sons for that little boy.”
Mr Blunkett added, in a poignant aside, that he had “misunderstood” the relationship he had with Ms Quinn.
Referring to Ms Quinn’s young child, whom he believes is his, he said: “I misunderstood what we had. I misunderstood that someone could do this, not just to me, but to a little one as well.
“The anguish of the weeks I have just had, and they have been the worst of my life, and the disappointment and sometimes I think probably the depression of the months to come, are absolutely nothing compared to the joy of, in the future, being able to grow and work alongside - along with my elder sons - that little lad.”