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Hazel Blears

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Hazel Blears

The Right Honourable
Hazel Blears
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
27 June 2007 – 5 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ruth Kelly
Succeeded by John Denham
Minister without Portfolio
In office
5 May 2006 – 27 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by The Baroness Warsi (2010)
Labour Party Chair
In office
5 May 2006 – 24 June 2007
Leader Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by Harriet Harman
Member of Parliament
for Salford and Eccles
Salford (1997–2010)
In office
1 May 1997 – 7 May 2015
Preceded by Stanley Orme
Succeeded by Rebecca Long-Bailey
Personal details
Born (1956-05-14) 14 May 1956
Salford, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Michael Halsall
Alma mater Nottingham Trent University
University of Law
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]
Website Official website

Hazel Anne Blears (born 14 May 1956) is a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Salford and Eccles from 2010 to 2015, when she stood down, 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]

Contents

  • Early life and education 1
  • Career outside Parliament 2
  • Parliamentary career 3
    • Ministerial career 3.1
    • Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 3.2
    • Deputy Leadership candidate 3.3
    • Resignation from the cabinet 3.4
  • Ethnic minorities 4
  • Hospital closures 5
  • Expenses scandal 6
  • Kids without Connections 7
  • Personal life 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Early life and education

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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]

On 31 August 2014 Blears proposed an idea to tackle extremism before it's too late. She also criticized British Government for focusing on small threats rather than the big ones. She also said that by targeting young Muslims and trying to save them before they turn into extremists should be the main key in fighting against terrorism.[30]

Personal life

She married solicitor Michael Halsall on 21 October 1989 in Salford. They have no children. Halsall introduced Blears to motorcycling.[31]

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.[32]

Although brought up as a Methodist, she attends the Roman Catholic SS Peter & Paul Church in Pendleton, as her husband is Roman Catholic.[33]

Her height is reportedly 4 feet 10 inches (1.47m) tall. Fellow Labour MP Frank Dobson once jokingly remarked about her height, "The good thing about global warming is that Hazel Blears will be the first to go when the water rises."[34]

She stood down at the 2015 United Kingdom general election as she had announced.[35][36][37]

References

  1. ^ a b Pierce, Andrew (3 June 2009). "'"Hazel Blears resignation: brutal revenge of 'the chipmunk.  
  2. ^ "Brown pressure as Blears quits". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Hazel Blears Resigns". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Bright, Martin; Kampfner, John (12 March 2007). "Interview: Hazel Blears".  
  5. ^ Grice, Andrew (23 February 2007). "Blears join battle to replace Prescott".  
  6. ^ Webster, Philip (4 May 2009). "Hazel Blears beats a retreat after criticism of Gordon Brown".  
  7. ^ "The Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP". www.communities.gov.uk. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "How they are trying to discredit Blears".  
  9. ^ Summers, Deborah (28 June 2007). "Brown appoints first female home secretary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  10. ^ Porter, Andrew (23 April 2008). "Gordon Brown planning summer reshuffle to halt Labour slump". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 16 June 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "Reshuffle changes". London: BBC News. 6 October 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Hazel's claim 'in shreds".  
  13. ^ Wintour, Patrick (23 February 2007). "Blears to run for Labour deputy and admits party 'disengaged". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 19 September 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  14. ^ "Harman wins deputy leader contest". BBC News (London). 24 June 2007. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "Brown pressure after Blears quits". London: BBC News. 3 June 2009. Archived from the original on 6 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "Blears to face confidence motion". London: BBC News. 13 June 2009. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  18. ^ Landale, James (11 May 2010). "Gordon Brown's political career". BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 May 2010. 
  19. ^ 'Muslims can expect the police to target them, minister says.' The Times (2 March 2005), p. 2.
  20. ^ Cindi John (9 August 2005). "The UK's ethnic name game". London: BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 February 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  21. ^ "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. 
  22. ^ Hennessy, Patrick; Kite, Melissa (10 May 2009). "Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, facing fresh questions over flat sale in row over MPs' expenses".  
  23. ^ Taylor, Matthew (13 May 2009). "Hazel Blears attempts to rebuild reputation with £13,332 cheque". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 16 May 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  24. ^ Porter, Andrew (21 May 2009). "Gordon Brown 'pursuing a political vendetta' against Hazel Blears". The Daily Telegraph (London). Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  25. ^ "Cabinet ministers have made tens of thousands 'flipping' their homes". Daily Mail (London: Mail Online). 8 May 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  26. ^ "Mark Thomas Visits Hazel Blears in Salford".  
  27. ^ Doughty, Steve (5 June 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 8 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  28. ^ Dan Thompson (14 October 2009). "Blears told to pay £225 in expenses row".  
  29. ^ "Young people find permanent jobs through Hazel Blears’ work experience scheme".  
  30. ^ Caroline Wheeler (31 August 2014). "Exclusive: Hazel Blears wants to target young Muslims to prevent terrorism".  
  31. ^ Wyatt, Petronella (6 June 2007). "She is a candidate for Deputy Leader but is Hazel nuts?". Mail Online (London: Daily Mail). Archived from the original on 13 May 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  32. ^ White, Michael (5 August 2005). "Hazel Blears MP". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 14 June 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  33. ^ "Blears reveals cameo role in classic movie". Daily Mail (London: Mail Online). 26 May 2007. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2010. 
  34. ^ "Frank Dobson: Labour needs to be 'knocking lumps off' this government". The Guardian. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  35. ^ "Ex-Cabinet minister Hazel Blears to step down as an MP".  
  36. ^ Christopher Hope (20 February 2014). "Expenses MP Hazel Blears to quit Commons in 2015". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  37. ^ "Hazel Blears, MP for Salford and Eccles, to stand down". BBC News. 20 February 2014. Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 

External links

Audio clips
  • WPRadio Online interview on Women's Parliamentary Radio just before taking over role as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
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

20102015
Succeeded by
Rebecca Long-Bailey
Political offices
Preceded by
Ian McCartney
Minister without Portfolio
2006–2007
Vacant
Title next held 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
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