Blunkett visa probe begins

A FORMER top Whitehall adviser last night began a probe into British Home Secretary David Blunkett’s dealings with a visa application from the nanny of his former lover, Kimberly Quinn.

Ex-chief economic adviser to the Treasury Alan Budd was asked to investigate a claim that Mr Blunkett “fast-tracked” a visa application from Mrs Quinn’s Filipino nanny Leoncia Casalme, who was seeking leave to remain in Britain.

The inquiry has been instigated at Mr Blunkett’s request.

Mrs Quinn’s Irish husband, Stephen, aged 60, vowed yesterday to “do anything” to fight for his family after reports Blunkett claims he is the father of Mrs Quinn’s two-year-old son, William, and her unborn child.

Mrs Quinn, the 44-year-old publisher of The Spectator, who is expecting her second child in February, has been signed off work until at least May. She is said to have been devastated by weekend press reports that Blunkett is planning court action so that DNA tests are conducted to establish his paternity.

Mrs Quinn, previously Kimberly Fortier, is American-born and has been married to Stephen Quinn, the publisher of Vogue magazine, since 2001. She had a three-year affair with Mr Blunkett, which she brought to an end in the summer.

It is that paternity dispute which is said to be at the heart of the increasingly acrimonious row between the parties, after Mrs Quinn ended in August a three-year affair between her and the minister.

Outside the couple’s 2.8 million home near Park Lane, central London, Mr Quinn replied “Yes” when asked if he would fight to save his family.

“I love my wife, I love my family, I’d do anything to look after them,” Mr Quinn said.

He also said his seven-months pregnant wife was ill, resting in bed and would not be speaking to waiting reporters.

And in what seemed to be leading to an open war between the couple, Kimberly Quinn made damaging claims about Blunkett’s alleged abuse of his powers as home secretary.

At the same time she appeared to admit that Blunkett was the father of her two-year-old son. According to a newspaper report on Sunday, the couple had a private DNA test last year that proved the boy was Blunkett’s. She was alleged to have received the results and read them out to the blind Blunkett. Her attack came after he threatened to use the law to gain official recognition of his fatherhood of her son, William.

Friends of her husband, Stephen, also said that they thought Blunkett was the father of her unborn child, due in February.

The most serious claim, denied by Blunkett, is that he fast-tracked a visa application for Quinn’s nanny. In an e-mail to a friend on Thursday she is said to have accused the home secretary of helping the Filipina nanny, Leoncia “Luz” Casalme, to get permanent residency.

The allegations threaten the 57-year-old home secretary’s political career. Blunkett is also accused of allowing his mistress to have use of his official government car, putting policeman on duty to protect her home and giving her free rail tickets provided to him as an MP for his constituency duties.

The allegations surfaced after Blunkett made it clear that he would challenge the paternity of Quinn’s son and her unborn baby.

Stephen Quinn told The Sunday Times last week that he will fight to keep the children in the face of a legal move by Blunkett to order official DNA tests on the children to prove they are his. Blunkett and Mrs Quinn fell out in August when she called off the relationship.

Stephen Quinn told the Sunday Times he will fight to keep the children. Quinn, publisher of Vogue magazine for Condé Nast, has been under scrutiny since details of his wife’s high-profile lover became public but has remained silent until now.

He said that the children would remain his and repeatedly referred to the unborn child as “our” baby. He has forgiven his wife for the affair.

The Quinns had a wedding reception at the Groucho club in June 2001. Only months later Quinn, who had become publisher of The Spectator, met Blunkett, a former socialist, at a dinner and sparks flew.

To embark on an affair so soon after being married speaks either of an overpowering passion or a shocking disregard for others.

As one observer said last week: “I know we’re all meant to be unshockable, but aren’t most people still disgusted by the idea of a man making love to a married woman through not one but two of her pregnancies?”

The affair began nine weeks after his marriage in the summer of 2001.

Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday publicly threw his weight behind Mr Blunkett, saying he had “no doubt at all that he will be exonerated” by Budd’s inquiry.

Mr Blair made clear he was not interested in other details of the controversy swirling around Mr Blunkett and his affair with Spectator magazine publisher Mrs Quinn, 43.

The premier told his monthly news conference at No 10: “The question is, is something in someone’s private life an interference with their public duty?”

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