Hazel Blears

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The Right Honourable
Hazel Blears
MP
Hazel Blears, June 2009 2 cropped.jpg
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
June 27, 2007 – June 5, 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ruth Kelly
Succeeded by John Denham
Minister without Portfolio
In office
May 5, 2006 – June 27, 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by Baroness Warsi[a]
Labour Party Chair
In office
May 5, 2006 – June 24, 2007
Leader Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by Harriet Harman
Member of Parliament
for Salford and Eccles
Salford (1997–2010)
Incumbent
Assumed office
May 1, 1997
Preceded by Stanley Orme
Majority 5,725 (13.8%)
Personal details
Born (1956-05-14) 14 May 1956 (age 57)
Salford, Lancashire, England, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Michael Halsall
Alma mater Nottingham Trent University
Profession Solicitor
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]
Website www.hazelblears.co.uk
a. ^ Office vacant from June 28, 2007 – May 11, 2010

Hazel Anne Blears (born May 14, 1956) is a British Labour Party politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Salford and Eccles since 2010 and was previously the MP for Salford since 1997. She served in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Labour Chair between 2006 and 2007, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2007 to 2009, when she resigned. Commenting on the announcement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said that Blears had made an "outstanding contribution" to public life even after refusing to pay back expenses which were claimed in breach of Parliamentary rules.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Hazel Blears was born in Salford, Lancashire on 14 May 1956, the daughter of a maintenance fitter.[4] As a young child, Hazel and her brother Stephen both played street urchins in the film A Taste of Honey which was filmed in Salford in 1961, when Blears was aged five.[5] Blears was educated at Worsley Wardley Grammar School in Wardley, Worsley and then Eccles College on Chatsworth Road in Ellesmere Park, Eccles. She went to Trent Polytechnic in Nottingham (now known as Nottingham Trent University), graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Law, and later, the Chester College of Law in 1977.[6][7]

Career outside Parliament[edit]

Hazel Blears started her career in Salford as a trainee solicitor with Salford City Council in 1978. After two years, she went into private practice for a year, before joining Rossendale Borough Council as a solicitor in 1981 and in the same year she was elected as a Branch Secretary in NALGO. In 1983 she became a solicitor for Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council and later became Manchester City Council's education solicitor. In the following year, she was elected as a councillor to Salford City Council and she served on the council until 1992. She was Chair of the Salford Community Health Council for several years.

Parliamentary career[edit]

She stood in Tatton in 1987 against Neil Hamilton and in 1992 in Bury South where she lost by 788 votes. At the 1997 general election she was elected as the Labour MP for Salford, her home seat.

After the election she became the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State at the Department of Health Alan Milburn until 1998. She spent ten months in 1999 as PPS to then Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Smith.

In the run-up to the 2001 General Election, Blears was a member and later deputy head of the Labour Party campaign team, a group of backbenchers tasked with campaigning around the country. This raised her national profile.

At the 2010 general election, parliamentary constituencies for Salford and Eccles were restructured, with Blears's constituency being abolished. She defeated Ian Stewart in the selection contest to be the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for the new parliamentary constituency of Salford and Eccles, and was elected.

During her parliamentary career, she has acquired the nickname "Chipmunk".[1] Fraser Kemp, writing in The Spectator, has subsequently dubbed her "the Iron Chipmunk", a play on the phrase "Iron Lady", often used to describe Margaret Thatcher.[8]

Ministerial career[edit]

After the 2001 General Election, Blears entered Tony Blair's government as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, responsible for Public Health. In this job she launched the Government's "5-a-day" campaign to get people to eat more fruit and vegetables.

Blears was promoted in 2003 to Minister of State at the Home Office, with responsibilities for policing, crime reduction and counter terrorism. She was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in 2003. After the 2005 General Election, on 7 June 2005 she became a Member of the Privy Council. In a cabinet reshuffle following Council Elections on 4 May 2006 Tony Blair appointed her Party Chair replacing Ian McCartney.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government[edit]

Blears in 2013

On 28 June 2007 the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown appointed Blears as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, replacing Ruth Kelly.[9] In April 2008 it was rumoured that Brown was planning a summer reshuffle in which Blears would be demoted.[10] However, when the reshuffle occurred in the autumn, it was confirmed she was to retain her position.[11]

In May 2008 Blears mistakenly commented on BBC's Question Time that there were 3 million people unemployed in the United Kingdom when Labour came to power in 1997 (the official figure was 1,602,500).[12]

Deputy Leadership candidate[edit]

On 24 February 2007 she announced her candidacy for the election for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, making her one of six candidates for the job formerly held by John Prescott.[13] She came last out of six candidates. Harriet Harman won the election on 24 June 2007.[14]

Resignation from the cabinet[edit]

On 3 June 2009, the day before the 2009 European and local elections, Blears announced she would resign from the cabinet at the next reshuffle.[3] The media noted how, on the day her resignation was announced, she wore a brooch bearing the message "rocking the boat"[15][16] On 12 June 2009, she expressed her regret at the manner and timing of her resignation in an interview with the Manchester Evening News.[17] Her resignation was one of several from the Labour cabinet that summer, with the government's difficulties compounded by poor results in the European elections and poor opinion poll results which were largely blamed on the recession and rising unemployment.[18]

Ethnic minorities[edit]

In March 2005, while Home Office minister with responsibility for counter-terrorism, Blears implied that section 44 of the terrorism act would disproportionally affect Muslims. In response to this and to her seeming endorsement of it, Ray Powell, President of the National Black Police Association, described the minister's language as "intemperate and inconsiderate". "I think it is wrong of her to say they should accept it is used disproportionately. That comment would not be helpful and does not instill confidence within the Muslim community,".[19]

In August 2005 Blears said the 'rebranding' of ethnic minorities in favour of adopting US-style hyphenated titles such as Asian-British or Indian-British was "among a range of ideas" brought up in meetings with Muslim and other community groups.[20] This proposal was quickly withdrawn by the Home Office, as the government moved to distance itself from the idea.

Hospital closures[edit]

In 2006 Blears joined in protests against the closure of hospital departments in her constituency, even though these closures were consistent with the policies of the government of which she was a senior member. Health Emergency's head of campaigns Geoff Martin said, "there are 29 hospitals up and down the country facing the immediate threat of cuts and closure to key services in 2007. Will Hazel Blears be joining demonstrators on the streets in each of those areas or is this just a classic case of 'not in my back yard'"?[21]

Expenses scandal[edit]

In May 2009 The Telegraph reported that Blears had claimed the maximum allowable expenses, within one pound, for three properties, as well as for stays in hotels, £4,874 on furniture, £899 on a new bed and £913 on a new TV, the second such TV in under a year, and the maximum £400 a month in groceries. Further, Blears had not paid capital gains tax on profit from the sale of a London flat. The property was registered as her main residence with HM Revenue and Customs, but Blears had been claiming MPs' second home expenses relating to the flat. She had made a £45,000 profit on its sale without paying capital gains tax.[22] On 12 May she volunteered to pay the £13,332 capital gains tax she had avoided on the sale of her 'second home.[23] It was subsequently claimed that Gordon Brown had ordered her to repay the sum.[24] The Daily Mail printed allegations that Blears 'flipped' her homes in London three times in one year. Flipping is the practice of switching which of two or more properties is designated an MP's second home. This allowed her to maximise her taxpayer-funded allowances.[25]

In Salford she was met by a number of angry protesters and stayed in a local hotel rather than at home.[26]

In June 2009 the police at Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service issued a statement regarding MPs' expenses, which stated that they had not found evidence of criminal activity and that it was 'highly unlikely' that MPs would face charges. The police said that the incidents of flipping second homes to avoid paying capital gains tax was not a matter for police investigation.[27] Following an investigation by Sir Thomas Legg, Blears was told to repay £225 in expenses in relation to a glass shelving unit for her London flat.[28]

Kids without Connections[edit]

In 2013 Hazel Blears launched the Kids without Connections work experience programme. The programme aims to encourage local businesses across Salford and Eccles to offer work experience to young people aged between 16–24 years. The placements were not paid but were a way of providing experience to people unemployed or seeking work. As a direct result of the project 16 of the 42 initial young people on the programme found a full-time job or apprenticeship immediately after the scheme had ended.[29]

Personal life[edit]

She married solicitor Michael Halsall on 21 October 1989 in Salford. They have no children. Halsall introduced Blears to motorcycling.[30]

In 2005 Blears was a member of a parliamentary tap-dancing troupe known as the Division Belles. Other members included Caroline Flint, Beverley Hughes, Laura Moffatt, Meg Munn, Joan Ryan and Dari Taylor .[31]

Although brought up as a Methodist, she attends the Roman Catholic SS Peter & Paul Church in Pendleton, as her husband is Roman Catholic.[32]

She has announced that she intends to stand down at the next United Kingdom general election.[33][34][35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pierce, Andrew (June 3, 2009). "Hazel Blears resignation: brutal revenge of 'the chipmunk'". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Brown pressure as Blears quits". London: BBC News. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Hazel Blears Resigns". London: BBC News. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  4. ^ Bright, Martin; Kampfner, John (March 12, 2007). Interview: Hazel Blears. New Statesman. Archived from the original on October 7, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  5. ^ Grice, Andrew (February 23, 2007). "Blears join battle to replace Prescott". The Independent (London). Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ Webster, Philip (May 4, 2009). "Hazel Blears beats a retreat after criticism of Gordon Brown". The Times. Archived from the original on May 7, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP". www.communities.gov.uk. Retrieved May 7, 2010. [dead link]
  8. ^ "How they are trying to discredit Blears". The Spectator. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on June 11, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ Summers, Deborah (June 28, 2007). "Brown appoints first female home secretary". The Guardian. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ Porter, Andrew (April 23, 2008). "Gordon Brown planning summer reshuffle to halt Labour slump". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on June 16, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Reshuffle changes". London: BBC News Online. October 6, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Hazel's claim 'in shreds". Channel 4 News. May 23, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2010. [dead link]
  13. ^ Wintour, Patrick (February 23, 2007). "Blears to run for Labour deputy and admits party 'disengaged". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on September 19, 2008. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Harman wins deputy leader contest". London: BBC News. June 24, 2007. Archived from the original on August 18, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Brown pressure after Blears quits". London: BBC News. June 3, 2009. Archived from the original on June 6, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  16. ^ Webster, Philip (June 4, 2009). "The plot thickens: Hazel Blears resigns, and MPs prepare to ask Brown to go". London: The Times. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Blears to face confidence motion". London: BBC News. June 13, 2009. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  18. ^ Landale, James (May 11, 2010). "Gordon Brown's political career". BBC News. Archived from the original on May 13, 2010. 
  19. ^ 'Muslims can expect the police to target them, minister says.' The Times (2 March 2005), p. 2.
  20. ^ "The UK's ethnic name game". London: BBC News. August 9, 2005. Archived from the original on February 13, 2006. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Blears rejects hypocrisy claims over NHS protest". 24 dash.com. December 28, 2006. Archived from the original on January 6, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  22. ^ Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (May 10, 2009). "Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, facing fresh questions over flat sale in row over MPs' expenses". The Sunday Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on May 12, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  23. ^ Taylor, Matthew (May 13, 2009). "Hazel Blears attempts to rebuild reputation with £13,332 cheque". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on May 16, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  24. ^ Porter, Andrew (May 21, 2009). "Gordon Brown 'pursuing a political vendetta' against Hazel Blears". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on May 30, 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Cabinet ministers have made tens of thousands 'flipping' their homes". Mail Online (London: Daily Mail). May 8, 2009. Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Mark Thomas Visits Hazel Blears in Salford". Salford: Salford Star. June 1, 2009. Archived from the original on May 25, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2012. 
  27. ^ Doughty, Steve (June 5, 2009). "MPs to escape prosecution over expenses scandal as police say charges are 'highly unlikely'". Mail Online (London: Daily Mail). Archived from the original on June 8, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  28. ^ Dan Thompson (October 14, 2009). "Blears told to pay £225 in expenses row". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on November 12, 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Young people find permanent jobs through Hazel Blears’ work experience scheme". Manchester Gazette. July 8, 2013. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  30. ^ Wyatt, Petronella (June 6, 2007). "She is a candidate for Deputy Leader but is Hazel nuts?". Mail Online (London: Daily Mail). Archived from the original on May 13, 2009. Retrieved April 27, 2010. 
  31. ^ White, Michael (August 5, 2005). "profile: Hazel Blears MP". London: The Gardian. Archived from the original on June 14, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  32. ^ "Blears reveals cameo role in classic movie". Mail Online (London: Daily Mail). May 26, 2007. Archived from the original on May 14, 2009. Retrieved January 15, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Ex-Cabinet minister Hazel Blears to step down as an MP". ITV News. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved February 20, 2014. 
  34. ^ Christopher Hope (February 20, 2014). "Expenses MP Hazel Blears to quit Commons in 2015". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved April 24, 2014. 
  35. ^ . BBC News Online. February 20, 2014 //web.archive.org/web/20090514061824/http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-26282509. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved April 24, 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]

Audio clips
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Stan Orme
Member of Parliament for Salford
19972010
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Salford and Eccles
2010–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Ian McCartney
Minister without Portfolio
2006–2007
Succeeded by
The Baroness Warsi
Preceded by
Ruth Kelly
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
2007–2009
Succeeded by
John Denham
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ian McCartney
Labour Party Chair
2006–2007
Succeeded by
Harriet Harman