Blears vows to 'rebuild' after foiling deselection bid

Hazel Blears welcomed "sensible discussions" with party members after she survived a deselection vote.

The former communities secretary said the Labour party had "rallied behind me" after she kept the party's nomination for her Salford seat.

The voting was 33 against the deselection motion, 12 for and one abstention as some 80 people packed into the meeting in Salford last night.

Ms Blears said: "We have had one of the most sensible discussions that I have had about this issue for weeks and weeks.

"I'm at a loss as to how I got to this place but what I've had tonight is the first chance to explain myself properly to my party members."

In a sometimes fiery and passionate two-and-three-quarter hour meeting some party members berated Ms Blears for coming within a "hair's breadth" of bringing down Gordon Brown.

Accusations of "blind loyalty" were thrown around with the local party being left with a "lame duck" candidate for the next general election.

The level of "hostility and venom" was remarked upon as tempers flared.

Some local party members said they themselves had been verbally attacked in the street following the expenses scandal because they were known to be party members.

Ms Blears gave an explanation of her expenses citing inaccuracies in the way the media had reported the furore but apologised again for the timing of her resignation.

Some members attacked the media for wanting "the blood" of a working class Labour MP and accepted she had simply made mistakes.

Members accepted they had a huge job in turning round the party's popularity but said Salford and other urban areas had been transformed through Labour government and the fight would go on.

After securing her position Ms Blears said she would now focus on "bread and butter" politics, but acknowledged she had been made "incandescently angry" by the expenses allegations against her.

She told the BBC: "The absolute priority for me now is to be a bread and butter champion for the people of Salford, to go out there and campaign for Labour but also to expose what Tory party policies would mean to the people of this city and this is absolutely my priority."

Ms Blears insisted she had meant no harm with the timing of her resignation.

She explained: "My party were concerned about the timing of my resignation and I said before that I bitterly regret that.

"I would not want to damage the party in any way, shape or form, but what I also heard tonight from party members is that events of a few weeks do not wipe out 30 years of a record in local and national politics of fighting and being a champion for some of the poorest people in our country.

"That's what drives me, it motivates me every day of my life and now I've got a chance to rebuild and re-invigorate my politics."

She said intense media pressure had been a factor in making her position becoming untenable.

Ms Blears explained: "At that time, as you well know, I had had a couple of weeks of intense media scrutiny the like of which I had never known.

"I never want to know it again, not just on me but my constituents, my party members, my family and also clearly, there came a point where I did feel I was singled out in terms of expenses, my position became untenable.

"I genuinely thought as Jacqui Smith had said she was going, that I could say that I was going without creating such a scale of fire storm.

"Clearly that was wrong of me in hindsight."

On wearing a provocative brooch on the day of her resignation, she said: "By that time I was just incandescently angry.

"I felt that I was being run out of office on the basis of untrue allegations.

"I was angry with the whole situation.

"I was particularly angry with the media, because it has been impossible to get the message across."

The news that Ms Blears would stay in her post was met with shouts of "Hazel out" by protesters in front of Salford Civic Centre.

Stephen Kingston, one of the organisers of the demonstration said: "The reaction is that it shows the Labour party in Salford is completely and absolutely out of touch with their own voters, with the people of Salford.

"Labour is supposed to be the party of the working class, so why aren't they listening to the working class in Salford? The campaign will definitely continue. This is just the start of it."