Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 13:39 UK

What is Hazel Blears up to?

By Ross Hawkins
Political correspondent, BBC News

It is difficult to describe the government's communications efforts as a "lamentable failure", then persuade people you did not mean to criticise the prime minister.

Hazel Blears
Ms Blears is usually known for her upbeat approach

That was the position the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears found herself in after news of her Sunday newspaper article broke.

Just days earlier Gordon Brown had faced down critics of his YouTube videos and insisted he would use the site again.

So when Hazel Blears said "YouTube if you want to", but traditional methods were best, she both coined a catchy phrase and risked publicly contradicting her boss.

So what was she up to?

Publicly she has insisted she backs the prime minister 100%.

Sources close to Ms Blears - who is known more for enthusiasm and cheer than disloyalty - said the reaction to her article had surprised her.

Positioning?

Her key message, that Labour needs to do better getting its message across, is one she has delivered many times before, though without attracting this much negative publicity.

With unhappy backbenchers grumbling about Mr Brown, Labour figures who speak out of turn risk being accused of positioning themselves for a potential leadership contest.

Though, after being soundly beaten in the race to be the party's deputy leader, Ms Blears is not a frontrunner.

The question now is how will Mr Brown respond?

Sacking her in a future reshuffle could look petty. Allowing her to stay could look weak.

The former deputy prime minister John Prescott has urged his colleagues to stop complaining and get campaigning. Between the controversial phrases, Ms Blears had a similar message.

But rather than rallying Labour troops her piece has created more problems for an already burdened prime minister.



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