Sheffield’s longest serving MP David Blunkett has today announced he is quitting politics and will not stand in the general election next year.
The former Home Secretary said stepping down after 28 years in the House of Commons, and 45 years after becoming a Sheffield councillor, was the ‘most difficult political decision’ he had ever made and he would ‘miss it terribly’.
But he said it was time for a ‘fresh pair of legs’ and he wanted to quit while ‘still giving 100 per cent’ to his constituents in Hillsborough and Brightside.
Leading Labour figures, including Ed Miliband, praised him for ‘serving with distinction’.
Mr Blunkett pledged he would continue to fight for his constituency and stay in public service after the election.
After announcing the news to his constituency meeting last night, he said: “Forty five years, as it will be next year, is a fair whack. It is a milestone.
“I am still giving 100 per cent but in another six years, which is what it would end up being, you might end up losing the plot – you could go out with a fizzle.
“There is no greater honour, no greater privilege and no greater responsibility than being able to represent the area you grew up in.
“I am going to miss it terribly.
“I’m going to miss the local communities, I’m going to miss the cut and thrust and sharp edge of politics, and the way the people of Sheffield give you the most hard time imaginable but then make sure you know they are supporting you.
“You can’t sometimes say things that you want to say when you are a member of Parliament, so I am looking forward to a bit more freedom!”
Mr Blunkett said he had every intention of carrying on in public service, the social and voluntary sector, as well as championing his home city, and that he owed a ‘debt of gratitude’ to the people of Sheffield for their support over four decades.
He said new schools, higher employment and better housing are among the changes he has seen in Sheffield.
He added: “The job is not done yet and over the next 10 months I shall keep fighting, and I know my successor certainly will.”
Mr Blunkett admitted he’d had ‘ups and downs’ as well as regrets. His greatest achievements included dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 as a new Home Secretary and developing SureStart centres for young people – and also proving being blind did not hold him back.
“If I can do it, anybody can”, he said.
Labour colleague Coun Sioned-Mair Richards, local constituency Labour party secretary, said: “He’ll be almost impossible to replace.
“We now have a huge challenge to find someone with the right values, vision and a real connection with a local people.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “David Blunkett is a man whose commitment and determination have carried him to the highest positions in politics with one purpose – to serve the people of our country.”