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.

Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday


Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities