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hazel's crocodile blears

Herbie von Smalls

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Ex communities secretary Hazel Blears says she regrets "enormously" the timing of her shock resignation - just before local and European elections.


The Salford MP said she thought as two other ministers had announced they would stand down, she could do so without sparking a "huge firestorm".


"In the end, that judgement was wrong," she told the Manchester Evening News.


She also said she regretted mocking the PM's YouTube video and wearing a badge saying "rocking the boat" as she quit.


Her resignation as communities secretary was seen as a deliberate attempt to destabilise Gordon Brown on the eve of key elections.


She told the Manchester Evening News the "effect on the party", which crashed to an all-time low in share of the vote at the European polls and lost control of key local authorities, is "something I will regret forever".


She said the decision to wear the "rocking the boat" brooch as she headed back to her constituency after her resignation came after four weeks of intense media pressure over her expenses claims, which she said had affected her and her family.


"At that point I just had enough, it was a stupid thing to do in retrospect but it was just putting a brave face on, not going out as a coward on the basis of expenses claims which genuinely are not true," she told the newspaper's website.


The day before it had emerged Jacqui Smith had resigned as home secretary over pressure about her expenses claims - but Ms Smith declared her full support for Mr Brown as prime minister as she stood down. Ms Blears' resignation letter made no mention of Mr Brown's leadership.


She was said to be angry about being singled out for criticism by Mr Brown - who had described her failure to pay capital gains tax on the sale of a home as "totally unacceptable" - when other cabinet ministers were accused of similar actions.


In May, she launched what was seen as a thinly-veiled attack on Mr Brown's leadership in an article for the Observer, after his much criticised appearance on YouTube.


She had written: "Promote your message via YouTube if you want to. But it is no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre."


Ms Blears told the newspaper she now regretted the comments, saying: "It was thoughtless and it was hurtful and I apologised straightaway."


She told the newspaper she had not been part of a plot to destabilise Mr Brown as Labour leader.


Her resignation was followed by the dramatic exit of James Purnell, who quit as work and pensions secretary telling Mr Brown to "stand aside" for the sake of the party.


The following day Caroline Flint, a close friend of Ms Blears, resigned as Europe minister complaining Mr Brown had treated women ministers as "female window dressing".




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