British Labour politician, former education and home secretary 1994–2004 in the Blair government. A member of Labour's shadow cabinet from 1992, he was responsible for health and then, from 1994, for education and employment. After Labour's May 1997 landslide general election victory, Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed him to the cabinet as secretary of state for education and employment: a key post, as education was the government's priority. He oversaw increased spending to reduce school class sizes, expand higher education, and improve literacy and numeracy. After the May 2001 general election, Blunkett was appointed home secretary. Here he took a firm, populist line on asylum control and law and order, and was an advocate of identity cards. He resigned in December 2004 following allegations of fast-tracking a visa application for a personal acquaintance. He returned to front-line politics in May 2005 as work and pensions secretary. In November 2005 he resigned after media criticism that he did not consult the advisory committee on business appointments before taking up outside commercial appointments in 2004–05.
Blunkett was leader of Sheffield city council from 1980 before becoming MP for Sheffield Brightside in 1987. It became Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough in 2010 and Blunkett represented this seat until retiring as an MP in May 2015.
Blunkett overcame the disability of blindness to rise through the ranks of the trade union movement and local government to the forefront of national politics. Born in Sheffield, England, he was educated initially in specialist establishments for the blind. He took part-time and evening courses before studying at Sheffield University and Huddersfield College of Education, eventually becoming a lecturer himself. He was chair of the social services committee of Sheffield city council 1976–80.