Hazel Blears

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Hazel Blears
Official portrait, 2007
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
28 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime MinisterGordon Brown
Preceded byRuth Kelly
Succeeded byJohn Denham
Minister without portfolio
In office
5 May 2006 – 28 June 2007
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byIan McCartney
Succeeded byThe Baroness Warsi[a]
Chairman of the Labour Party
In office
5 May 2006 – 24 June 2007
LeaderTony Blair
Preceded byIan McCartney
Succeeded byHarriet Harman
Junior ministerial offices
Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety
In office
13 June 2003 – 5 May 2006
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byJohn Denham
Succeeded byTony McNulty
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health
In office
11 June 2001 – 13 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byGisela Stuart
Succeeded byStephen Ladyman
Member of Parliament
for Salford and Eccles
Salford (1997–2010)
In office
1 May 1997 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byStanley Orme
Succeeded byRebecca Long-Bailey
Personal details
Hazel Anne Blears

(1956-05-14) 14 May 1956 (age 68)
Salford, Lancashire, England
Political partyLabour
SpouseMichael Halsall
Alma materTrent Polytechnic
College of Law
WebsiteOfficial website

Hazel Anne Blears (born 14 May 1956) is a British former Labour Party politician, who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) successively for the constituencies of Salford and Salford and Eccles between 1997 and 2015.

One of 101 female Labour MPs elected at the 1997 general election, Blears served in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Chair of the Labour Party between 2006 and 2007, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2007 to 2009, before resigning as a result of the expenses scandal. Commenting on her resignation, Gordon Brown said that Blears had made an "outstanding contribution" to public life.[1][2]

Blears was re-elected in 2010 and remained a backbencher, before standing down at the 2015 election.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Hazel Blears was born in Salford, Lancashire on 14 May 1956, the daughter of Arthur Blears, a maintenance fitter.[4][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]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Described by journalist Michael White as a "ferociously effective networker",[5] Blears 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".[8] Fraser Nelson, writing in The Spectator, has subsequently dubbed her "the Iron Chipmunk", a play on the phrase "Iron Lady", often used to describe Margaret Thatcher.[9]

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 for Policing, Security and Community Safety.[10] 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.[11] In April 2008, it was rumoured that Brown was planning a summer reshuffle in which Blears would be demoted.[12] However, when the reshuffle occurred in the autumn, she retained the position.[13]

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).[14]

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.[15] She came last out of six candidates. Harriet Harman won the election on 24 June 2007.[16]

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.[2] The media noted how, on the day her resignation was announced, she wore a brooch bearing the message "rocking the boat"[17][18] On 12 June 2009, she expressed her regret at the manner and timing of her resignation in an interview with the Manchester Evening News.[19] 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.[20]

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".[21]

In August 2005, Blears said that the adoption of hyphenated titles such as 'Asian-British' or 'Indian-British' as a means of 'rebranding' ethnic minorities was "among a range of ideas" brought up in meetings with Muslim and other community groups.[22] 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'"?[23]

Expenses scandal[edit]

Blears in June 2009

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. She had also claimed £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, and many were said to be outraged that she was not prosecuted. 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.[24]

On 12 May, she volunteered to pay the £13,332 capital gains tax she had avoided on the sale of her second home.[25] It was subsequently claimed that Gordon Brown had ordered her to repay the sum.[26]

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

2010–2015: In opposition[edit]

Blears was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament from September 2010 to March 2015.[29] Blears presented the committee's report on privacy and security, carried out following Edward Snowden's revelations about global surveillance by the security agencies, to the media.[30][31]

In 2013, 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 and 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.[32]

She stood down at the 2015 United Kingdom general election, as she had announced.[3][33][34]

Later career[edit]

In May 2015, Blears became a director of The Co-operative Group and a member of the Risk and Audit Committee and Nominations Committee, for which she was paid £60,000 a year for which she was expected a minimum of one or two days' work per month.[35][36] In 2016 Blears was appointed Chair of the Social Investment Business.[37] She has also had roles as Chair of the Institute for Dementia at the University of Salford, as an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, and as a trustee of the Social Mobility Foundation.[38] In September 2020, Blears was appointed as "Social Value Specialist" for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority[39]

Personal life[edit]

She married Michael Halsall in 1989. They have no children.[5]

In 2005 Blears was a member of a parliamentary tap-dancing troupe known as the Division Belles (a play on the term "division bell"). Other members included Caroline Flint, Beverley Hughes, Laura Moffatt, Meg Munn, Joan Ryan and Dari Taylor.[5]


  1. ^ Office vacant between 28 June 2007 and 12 May 2010.


  1. ^ "Brown pressure as Blears quits". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Hazel Blears Resigns". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  3. ^ a b "Ex-Cabinet minister Hazel Blears to step down as an MP". ITV News. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  4. ^ Bright, Martin; Kampfner, John (12 March 2007). "Interview: Hazel Blears". New Statesman. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d White, Michael (5 August 2005). "Hazel Blears MP". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  6. ^ Webster, Philip (4 May 2009). "Hazel Blears beats a retreat after criticism of Gordon Brown". The Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  7. ^ "The Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP". www.communities.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 30 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  8. ^ Pierce, Andrew (3 June 2009). "Hazel Blears resignation: brutal revenge of 'the chipmunk'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  9. ^ "How they are trying to discredit Blears". The Spectator. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Home Office". The Times. 11 May 2005. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  11. ^ Summers, Deborah (28 June 2007). "Brown appoints first female home secretary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  12. ^ Porter, Andrew (23 April 2008). "Gordon Brown planning summer reshuffle to halt Labour slump". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  13. ^ "Reshuffle changes". London: BBC News. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  14. ^ "Hazel's claim 'in shreds". Channel 4 News. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010.[dead link]
  15. ^ Wintour, Patrick (23 February 2007). "Blears to run for Labour deputy and admits party 'disengaged". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  16. ^ "Harman wins deputy leader contest". London: BBC News. 24 June 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  17. ^ "Brown pressure after Blears quits". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  18. ^ Webster, Philip (4 June 2009). "The plot thickens: Hazel Blears resigns, and MPs prepare to ask Brown to go". The Times. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  19. ^ "Blears to face confidence motion". London: BBC News. 13 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  20. ^ Landale, James (11 May 2010). "Gordon Brown's political career". BBC News. Retrieved 14 January 2024.
  21. ^ "Muslims can expect the police to target them, minister says", The Times (2 March 2005), p. 2.
  22. ^ John, Cindi (9 August 2005). "The UK's ethnic name game". London: BBC News. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  23. ^ "Blears rejects hypocrisy claims over NHS protest". 24 dash.com. 28 December 2006. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  24. ^ Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (10 May 2009). "Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, facing fresh questions over flat sale in row over MPs' expenses". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  25. ^ Taylor, Matthew (13 May 2009). "Hazel Blears attempts to rebuild reputation with £13,332 cheque". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  26. ^ Porter, Andrew (21 May 2009). "Gordon Brown 'pursuing a political vendetta' against Hazel Blears". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 January 2010.
  27. ^ "Mark Thomas Visits Hazel Blears in Salford". Salford Star. Salford. 1 June 2009. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  28. ^ Dan Thompson (14 October 2009). "Blears told to pay £225 in expenses row". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  29. ^ "Rt Hon Hazel Blears". UK Parliament. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  30. ^ Crace, John (12 March 2015). "Nothing to see here: committee gives intelligence services all-clear". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  31. ^ Legge, James (8 November 2013). "Hazel Blears says security committee did know the scope of GCHQ snooping". The Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  32. ^ "Young people find permanent jobs through Hazel Blears' work experience scheme". Manchester Gazette. 8 July 2013. Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  33. ^ Christopher Hope (20 February 2014). "Expenses MP Hazel Blears to quit Commons in 2015". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  34. ^ "Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles, to stand down". BBC News. 20 February 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  35. ^ "Ex-Salford MP Hazel Blears lands £60k Co-op director job". BBC News. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  36. ^ "Hazel Blears". Co-operative Group. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  37. ^ Kay, Liam (28 January 2016). "Hazel Blears appointed chair of the Social Investment Business". Third Sector. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  38. ^ "Hazel Blears". Co-operative Group Limited. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  39. ^ Crack, Cumbria (10 September 2020). "NDA announces Social Value Specialist". Cumbria Crack. Retrieved 10 September 2020.

External links[edit]

Audio clips
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Salford

Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Salford and Eccles

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Minister without Portfolio
Title next held by
The Baroness Warsi
Preceded by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Labour Party
Succeeded by