No tears for Hazel Blears

1:23 am - June 4th 2009

by Laurie Penny    

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I feel obliged to insist that however pissed off we are at our politicians, it’s still hugely important to vote today. Meanwhile, is anyone else completely disgusted with the filibustering going on down on the Westminster farm?

Following Blears’ resignation, ‘rebel’ Labourites are calling for his resignation and they just might get it. Guardianistas are rubbing their hands and cackling armchair anarchy into their cappucinos whilst the government crumbles around them. Brilliant.

Thanks, Hazel, that’s absolutely what we needed to get us back to what’s important in politics, like that grassroots unrest you keep talking about despite the fact that you wouldn’t know community organisation if it jumped out of your tiny designer handbag and hit you on the head.

I’m not about to disagree with anyone who believes that Brown should be gone, and soon. Far from it. But this isn’t a measured process of leadership challenge, it’s not even a response to public pressure: it’s a playground pile-on born of panic over the woeful expenses fiasco, and it is STUPID. It’s stupid, it’s so stupid and so childish and so far from what politics should be about that it even makes bits of Blair’s government look good by comparison.

To explain what I mean, let’s take by means of comparison another Labour resignation speech by another shamelessly goblinesque gingerite: Robin Cook. Here is the text of the speech; even as a 16-year-old with no faith in mainstream politics I remember being roused. The idea that politicians of principle could challenge their government so nobly and with such knife-twisting decorum, in protest at a military offensive which the people of Britain and the world were desperate to halt in its tracks, was exciting. It was magnificent.

It was magnificent and they went ahead and invaded Iraq anyway. They didn’t listen to parliament, they didn’t listen to two million people on the streets of London, they didn’t listen to international opinion. They went ahead and did it anyway, to the cost of many thousands of Iraqi lives, hundreds of British lives, billions of pounds poured into the defence budget and a permanent soiling of this Labour party in government.

Labour ‘rebellion’ from the backbenches actually used to mean something, before it was stained with futility and disillusionment. Now, as Nick Clegg (the only person talking any sense today) declared at Question Time, ‘The country doesn’t have a government; it has a void’.

I’m not impressed by this ‘rebellion’. I’m more impressed by the weary loyalty of Alan Johnson as he – please gods – prepares for potential leadership than I am by Blears’ smirking, scruffy attempt to play rebel-without-a-cabinet-portfolio, even if she does have that very shiny motorbike. I don’t think it’s responsible to knock over the cabinet from within, not unless your prime minister has just declared martial law. Which Brown, for all his shambling clampdowns on Habeas Corpus, hasn’t.

What depresses me is that this ‘rebellion’ is not a matter of principle for any of the ministers and MPs involved. It’s a cowardly, schoolyard attempt to kick an unpopular prime minister when he’s finally down, just like the weedier gang-running kids who yell ‘we never liked him anyway!’ when their school bully is dethroned, and it’s come far, far too late.

It’s not about the politics: it’s about their own jobs, a sorry attempt to cool down public and press indignation at an expenses scandal in which they are all culpable by attacking the man who, for better or worse, they chose to lead them (313 Labour MPs nominated Brown over John McDonnell in 2007). I am disgusted with all of them. And what’s worst of all is that they’re probably doing the right thing, for the party and for the country – finally.

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About the author
Laurie Penny is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. She is a journalist, blogger and feminist activist. She is Features Assistant at the Morning Star, and blogs at Penny Red and for Red Pepper magazine.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments

Blears resigned because she was about to be pushed and thought she may as well damage Brown, who she dislikes and is on opposite faction divides from, while she did. Well, shes next thing to a thief so no real sympathy, but making a powerplay out of an immenenet firing… well eh. Since its for a good cause…

Well, sure, be disgusted with labour MP’s- be disgusted at them for their past nominations of Brown, and for being pathetic whip fodder throughout that. A measured process of leadership change? That can only happen with leaders who are willing to consider leaving. Since that is almost never the case, now as with 1990 its only with much wailing and gnashing of teeth that change can happen. If you want to blame someone for that now blame the fool who has continued to cling to the job he has so manifestly failed to do well.

As for Johnson, even if he was gunning for the PM he would be acting loyal. If you are going to stand in a leadership election in which unions and members can vote you don’t act disloyal the day before an election, thats as basic as it gets (and probably why whichever leading lefty was hawking the letter didn’t want the press to know).

I mean you say its stupid, but why is it? Really, the stupid thing was leaving it this long, and it seems they are finally seeing sense (or the writing on the wall). Either way, we can be hopeful of marginally better government shortly and opposition parties can mourn the loss of a great asset.

Laurie, best LibCon article title ever. You rock.

They didn’t listen to parliament

Well – I was and am against both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, but on the latter, the government did give parliament a chance to vote on it, and a majority did vote for it. Still – they ignored everyone else.

Slightly o/t here – but who reckons we will see a great deal of policy difference under Cameron? He hasn’t mentioned what any of his policies will be, so I assume he’ll just borrow those of Brown’s (i.e. shit, totalitarian, inefficient and ineffective) and pretend as if anything has changed.

Why don’t they just change the name of “new” Labour to the Blair party?

Spot on Laurie. Absolutely spot on.

This media attempt to turn her into a bloody martyr of some kind is so sickening it’s enough to make you vomit.

She should have gone ages ago. Along with Purnell, Darling and Brown himself.

6. Shatterface

‘…tiny designer handbag…’


Glad to see the back of her but attacking her for her accessories is just as mysoginistic as criticising other women MPs for their shoes or lipstick.

We don’t see male MP’s criticized in these terms.

Shatterface: nah, that was just bitchy :). Also, I’ve met her, and I’m jealous of the handbag.

So the “Guardianistas cackling armchair anarchy into their Cappucino’s” who normally write for and post to this site won’t be inviting Hazel Blears to their dinner parties then!? Pity, because she might have some good anecdotes to literally dine out on. In order to raise the level of debate I would suggest discussing recipes…I do a good pasta al forno with meatballs and I also know a veggie version with aubergine balls instead of meat.
Of course you might all be busy studying for your exams and so don’t have either the money to buy or the time to read the Guardian and so the accusation of you being “Guardianistas” might be unfair. Apologies!

9. the a&e charge nurse

Never mind handbags what about this bit of wardrobe?

10. Mike Killingworth

[7][9] Cheer up, Laurie, at least you didn’t say Blears was “a bit glam”…

Well said, Penny.

Yes where are the Robin Cooks and John Smiths now?

Laurie: I suspect the only support Blears will get now is from the Ginger Liberation Front (Salford Chapter).


Slightly o/t here – but who reckons we will see a great deal of policy difference under Cameron? He hasn’t mentioned what any of his policies will be, so I assume he’ll just borrow those of Brown’s (i.e. shit, totalitarian, inefficient and ineffective) and pretend as if anything has changed.

Equally off topic reply: expect more of the same, without the jokes or the public spending, and with the swivel-eyed ideological certainty of the Bush/Cheney years.

Will: Why don’t they just change the name of “new” Labour to the Blair party? I’m sure the likes of Tessa Jowell would have suggested it given half the chance, backed up with supportive articles from John Rentoul, Martin Kettle or David Aaronovich (I’d have added Polly Toynbee, but she seems to be casting doe eyes at Alan Johnson these days).

“Watch out America. Europe’s had this for years. It will get much uglier too. Fight!”

To your keyboards, counter-Jihadists! And send a spray of capitalisations that will mildly bemuse the enemy into submission…

14. Alisdair Cameron

Hey, hey. Hazel is a bit Glam…

…if you’re talking this kind of glam:
(n.b. the red leathers even feature, bottom left pic…)

Purnell’s gone but not in circumstances I’d like. What in the blue blazes is going to happen now?

It’s depressing that all the negative elements are leaving the cabinet to preserve their future. Almost makes me want to cheer on Brown so that they can languish and fade away like they deserve

Haha, almost indeed… I’d like to see the reaction to a Purnell vs. Brown Leadership contest

I am speechless at the shifting loyalties of the ultra-Blairites. First Brown managed to drive a wedge between Blears and Purnell, Flint coming-out for Blears. Now Purnell has followed Blears, and Flint… has apparently come out swinging for Brown. I can’t help but think that they are all individually vying for their own best place in a leadership contest after the next election.

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