UK & World News

  • 20 February 2014, 23:11

MP Hazel Blears Is Ninth Senior Woman To Quit

Former Cabinet minister Hazel Blears has become the ninth senior woman Labour MP to stand down as an MP at the next election.

She told her local party in Salford and Eccles she had made the decision with a "heavy heart", but said she wants to spend more time with her family, including her mother, who has dementia.

An arch-Blairite first elected in Labour's 1997 landslide, she held a series of high-profile ministerial jobs under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before quitting the Cabinet in 2009.

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Her decision to leave the Commons aged just 57 is no great surprise, however, since her career never recovered from the expenses scandal in which it was disclosed she claimed for three properties in the space of a year.

It was revealed she had made a profit of 80,000 on her transactions, making the most of the MPs' second home allowance by "flipping" and switching the designation of her second home.

In a dramatic and tearful TV interview on Sky News in 2009, she wrote out a cheque for 13,000, the amount it was claimed she had avoided in capital gains tax.

But Gordon Brown described her tax avoidance as "totally unacceptable" and she resigned as Communities Secretary two days before a Cabinet reshuffle in which it was widely predicted she would be sacked.

Her announcement comes only days after John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, told MPs: "This House is losing far too many outstanding members and far too many outstanding women members."

On the Labour side, Hazel Blears joins Ann Clwyd, Dawn Primarolo, Dame Tessa Jowell, Glenda Jackson, Dame Joan Ruddock, Anne McGuire, Meg Munn and Joan Walley in standing down.

On the Conservative side, Louise Mensch has already gone and Lorraine Fulbrook, Jessica Lee and Laura Sandys have announced their intention to step down.

In addition, Anne McIntosh has been de-selected by Tories in Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire and may have to stand as an independent if she is to survive as an MP.

Echoing Speaker Bercow's comment, Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said recently: "My concern is we're seeing a sort of cull of senior, authoritative women and they're all being replaced by men."

Labour has also accused David Cameron and the Tories of having a "women problem", with the Labour leader Ed Miliband mocking the Government's all-male front bench during Prime Minister's Questions a fortnight ago.

Labour leader Ed Miliband paid tribute on Twitter, writing: "Hazel Blears has been a brilliant MP. Always fighting for those in most need. Parliament will miss her."

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