Hazel Blears

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Hazel Blears
Hazel Blears, June 2009 2 cropped.jpg
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)
Chairman of the Labour Party
In office
5 May 2006 24 June 2007
Leader Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by Harriet Harman
Minister of State for Policing
In office
13 June 2003 5 May 2006
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by John Denham
Succeeded by Tony McNulty
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
Salford City Councillor for Eccles ward
In office
3 May 1984 7 May 1992
Personal details
Born (1956-05-14) 14 May 1956 (age 63)
Salford, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)Michael Halsall
Alma mater Trent Polytechnic
College of Law
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. Prior to the creation of the Salford and Eccles constituency, she was the MP for Salford from 1997.

British people citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, British Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies, and their descendants

The British people, or the Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependencies. British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and nationality, which can be acquired, for instance, by descent from British nationals. When used in a historical context, "British" or "Britons" can refer to the Celtic Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain and Brittany, whose surviving members are the modern Welsh people, Cornish people, and Bretons. It may also refer to citizens of the former British Empire.

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom that has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Contents

She served in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the Labour Party between 2006 and 2007, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2007 to 2009, when she resigned.

Cabinet of the United Kingdom Decision-making body of the UK government

The Cabinet of the United Kingdom is the collective decision-making body of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, composed of the Prime Minister and 21 cabinet ministers, the most senior of the government ministers.

Chairman of the Labour Party (UK) chairperson of the Labour Party in the UK

The Chairman of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom is responsible for party administration, overseeing the General election campaigns of the Labour Party. When the Labour Party are in government, the Chairman is usually a member of the Cabinet holding a sinecure position such as Minister without Portfolio. The position was created by Tony Blair in the aftermath of the 2001 General Election. The position is not to be confused with that of Chair of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party under the Labour Party Constitution. Originally considered a courtesy title, the role has a larger portfolio for organising election campaigning under Jeremy Corbyn, working alongside the Co-National Campaign Coordinator, Andrew Gwynne. From 2007 to 2017, it was held concurrently by the party's Deputy Leader. The Labour Party is currently chaired by Ian Lavery, who was appointed following the 2017 general election.

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. [1] [2]

Gordon Brown Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

James Gordon Brown is a British politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007. Brown was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2015, first for Dunfermline East and later for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Early life and education

Hazel Blears was born in Salford, Lancashire on 14 May 1956, the daughter of Arthur Blears, a maintenance fitter. [3] [4]

County Borough of Salford former district of England

Salford was, from 1844 to 1974, a local government district in the northwest of England, coterminate with Salford. It was granted city status in 1926.

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

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. [5] [6]

Worsley Wardley Grammar School was a secondary school in Wardley, Greater Manchster serving Walkden, Worsley, Swinton, Pendlebury, Wardley and Clifton.

Wardley, Greater Manchester

Wardley is a suburban area of the City of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. It borders Linnyshaw, Walkden and Swinton.

Eccles College was an incorporated further education college in Eccles, Greater Manchester, England. It opened in 1973, and ceased to function as an independent body on 1 January 2009. The site continues to function under new management, as the Eccles Centre of Salford City College.

Early career

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.

A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and enabled to practise there as such. For example, in England and Wales a solicitor is admitted to practise under the provisions of the Solicitors Act 1974. With some exceptions, practising solicitors must possess a practising certificate. There are many more solicitors than barristers in England; they undertake the general aspects of giving legal advice and conducting legal proceedings.

Salford City Council Local government body in England

Salford City Council is the local authority of the City of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. It is a metropolitan district council, one of ten in Greater Manchester and one of 36 in the metropolitan counties of England, and provides the majority of local government services in Salford. It is a constituent council of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Rossendale Borough Council is the local authority for the Rossendale district of Lancashire, in northwestern England.

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

Described by journalist Michael White as a "ferociously effective networker", [4] 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". [7] 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. [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 Hazel Blears.jpg
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. [2] 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. 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. [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]

In Salford, her constituency, she was met by a number of angry protesters and stayed in a local hotel rather than at home. [25]

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. [26]

2010–2015: In opposition

Blears was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament from September 2010 to March 2015. [27] 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. [28] [29]

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 16–24 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. [30]

In August 2014, Blears proposed an idea to tackle extremism before it is too late. She criticised the British Government for focusing on small threats rather than the big ones. She also said that targeting young Muslims and trying to save them before they turn into extremists should be the main key in fighting against terrorism.[ citation needed ]

She stood down at the 2015 United Kingdom general election as she had announced. [31] [32] [33]

Later career

In May 2015 Blears became a director of The Co-operative Group and is 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. [34] [35] In 2016 Blears was appointed Chair of the Social Investment Business. [36] 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. [37]

Personal life

She married solicitor Michael Halsall in the 1980s. They have no children. Halsall introduced Blears to motorcycling. [4]

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. [4]

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References

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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