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Hazel Blears
Hazel Blears, June 2009 2 cropped.jpg
Blears in 2009
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
28 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 – 28 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by Ian McCartney
Succeeded by The Baroness Warsi
Chairman of the Labour Party
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 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Stanley Orme
Succeeded by Rebecca Long-Bailey
Personal details
Born
Hazel Anne Blears

(1956-05-14) 14 May 1956 (age 66)
Salford, Lancashire, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Michael Halsall
Alma mater Trent Polytechnic
College of Law
Website Official website: http://www.hazelblears.co.uk

Hazel Anne Blears (born 14 May 1956) is a former British Labour Party politician, who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Salford and Eccles, previously Salford, from 1997 to 2015.

One of 101 female Labour MPs elected at the 1997 general election, Blears served in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio and Chair of the Labour Party between 2006 and 2007, and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2007 to 2009, before resigning as a result of the expenses scandal. Commenting on her resignation, Gordon Brown said that Blears had made an "outstanding contribution" to public life.

Blears was re-elected in 2010 and remained a backbencher, before standing down at the 2015 election.

Early life and education

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

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.

Parliamentary career

Described by journalist Michael White as a "ferociously effective networker", 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". 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.

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 for Policing, Security and Community Safety. 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.

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. She came last out of six candidates. Harriet Harman won the election on 24 June 2007.

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. The media noted how, on the day her resignation was announced, she wore a brooch bearing the message "rocking the boat" On 12 June 2009, she expressed her regret at the manner and timing of her resignation in an interview with the Manchester Evening News. 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.

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".

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. 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'"?

2010–2015: In opposition

Blears was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament from September 2010 to March 2015. 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.

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 and 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.

She stood down at the 2015 United Kingdom general election as she had announced.

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. In 2016 Blears was appointed Chair of the Social Investment Business. 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. In September 2020, Blears was appointed as "Social Value Specialist" for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority

Personal life

She married Michael Halsall in 1989. They have no children.

In 2005 Blears was a member of a parliamentary tap-dancing troupe known as the Division Belles (a play on the term "division bell"). Other members included Caroline Flint, Beverley Hughes, Laura Moffatt, Meg Munn, Joan Ryan and Dari Taylor.

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