David Blunkett attacks BBC over Freddie Mercury clip: ‘Why should I apologise?’

David Blunkett – The Facts

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The BBC’s ‘Freddie Mercury: The Final Act’ aired over the weekend, and detailed the final chapter of the Queen frontman’s life after he was diagnosed with AIDS in the late Eighties. Freddie continued to write and record with Queen, before retiring to his Kensington home, where he lived out his final days surrounded by close friends. The singer ultimately died from complications with AIDS thirty years ago last month.

The programme also documented the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, one of the biggest concerts in history, which was held upon the singer’s death, to celebrate Freddie and challenge the prejudices around AIDS.

In a section of the documentary, Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor discuss the “unsympathetic” response to Freddie’s death from certain media outlets.

Their comments are followed by an archive clip from Question Time around 30 years ago, featuring Lord Blunkett, who was Home Secretary under Tony Blair’s Labour Government from 2001 to 2005, and is currently a member of the House of Lords.

Lord Blunkett, who at the time of the clip was an MP for Sheffield Brightside, said: “73,000 people using the Help AIDS line last year, those people seeking help and advice.

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“We’ve got to be able to give it in school, but we’ve got to be able to give it as part of a total picture, so that we don’t have a great hoo-ha [like] when Freddie Mercury died, because he had such a bizarre and, in my view, quite unacceptable lifestyle.”

Anger erupted on social media after the documentary aired, with political commentator Owen Jones tweeting: “Has David Blunkett ever apologised for this? F***ing. Hell.”

When approached Mr Blunkett for a comment on the resurfaced clip, the peer attacked the BBC for “misinterpreting” him. 

Lord Blunkett said: “For reasons that I am not prepared to speculate about, the makers of this otherwise excellent programme chose to misinterpret the thrust of what I was saying. 

“This extract from a BBC Question Time 30 years ago was in fact a response to a question and demonstrated a desire to reach out to all those facing the challenges of AIDS prior to the availability of retro-viral drugs.”

Lord Blunkett subsequently refused to apologise for the comments.

He continued: “That was then, now is now. What is there to apologise for?”

Freddie’s November 1991 death devastated Queen fans around the world.

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The much-adored singer, who was just 45, released a statement revealing his HIV+ status to the world just a day before his tragic passing.

Freddie’s final message to the world marked a watershed moment in tackling the stigma towards AIDS.

The star said: “Following enormous conjecture in the press, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. 

“I felt it correct to keep this information private in order to protect the privacy of those around me.

“However the time has now come for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth, and I hope everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease.”

The singer’s subsequent passing led to the mourning of millions of fans across the globe, but also helped propel the topic further into the public consciousness.

Shortly after Freddie’s death, Queen’s iconic anthem Bohemian Rhapsody was re-released and went to Christmas number one, which raised over £1million to support the work at sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Queen members also launched The Mercury Phoenix Trust, which still raises money and awareness for the cause today.

Of course, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert also helped raise funds and awareness in the fight against AIDS.

Catch up with ‘Freddie Mercury: The Final Act’ on BBC iPlayer.

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