Blears bid to rebuild trust starts to show cracks

Former Communities Secretary has car window smashed while on campaign trail

It may just have been a coincidence. As Hazel Blears was canvassing in her Salford constituency at the weekend, all four tyres of her Citroen Xsara Picasso were slashed and the windscreen shattered.

She blamed the vandalism on "bored kids" but others are not so sure. At the very least, they say, the attack reflects the current wreckage of her once highly successful political career.

Senior Labour sources have told The Independent they believe Ms Blears, who has a majority of almost 8,000, will struggle to hold on to a once ultra-safe seat in the wake of the expenses scandal. But these are exceptional times for the diminutive former Cabinet minister who stood for the Labour deputy leadership only two years ago.

She has been hit by a bitter backlash in her hometown since it emerged she had not paid capital gains tax of £13,332 on the sale of two flats in London. Writing out a cheque for the amount failed to save her and she resigned as Communities Secretary on the eve of this year's local election contests.

Since then she has embarked on a dogged street-by-street campaign to appease Salford's voters. But even her strongest supporters admit it has been an uphill struggle, while Labour chiefs fear she could lose the seat to the Liberal Democrats at the next election.

One former Cabinet colleague told The Independent: "There is some horrendous feedback from Salford. There is a real possibility that Hazel could fail to hold on."

Senior Labour sources also said she would not be able to rely on reinforcements from national headquarters to help her. They said the anger was still intense over the timing of her resignation in an apparent attempt to destabilise Gordon Brown.

Her name was mentioned three times – on no occasion flatteringly – at a meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee last month. But once she had survived an attempt to deselect her, Ms Blears responded by returning to the pavement politics that made her name.

She has also taken a vow of silence on the national stage and will not be speaking at next month's Labour conference. Instead, she has become involved in campaigns to save a popular Salford pub from redevelopment, and to prevent the closure of a local newspaper office. She accompanied the Princess Royal on a tour of Salford Royal Hospital, and promoted the work of the town's SureStart centres.

Her mission, her allies claim, is to meet as many – if not all – of her 60,000 constituents by the time of the expected election in May.

A friend said: "She is reminding people why they voted for her in the first place. She is doing the things that will bring people round."

He said the Labour vote held up relatively well in a council by-election in May at the height of the expenses storm and added: "It would defy all political gravity to lose Salford. It is not a marginal seat. She is determined to get a renewed majority and come back to Westminster with her head held high."

Steven North, of the Hazel Must Go campaign, said: "She has probably done more canvassing and talking to people in Salford in the last four weeks than in all her years as an MP. But it's not being well received."

The campaign has gathered 1,000 signatures calling for her to step down, and plans to hold a public meeting next month where speakers are planned to include the former independent MP Martin Bell. Her opponents will then decide whether to select a candidate to stand against her.

Blears' allies will suspect political motives as Mr North is a member of the far left Socialist Party, but he insisted the drive to oust her is winning support from all voters.

"If there is a genuine local candidate who has the support of the people of Salford, I think there is a real chance that they would beat Hazel Blears," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific