Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Friday, 22 May 2009 07:30 UK

Labour holds poll in Blears ward

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears
Ms Blears said she was 'absolutely delighted' with the by-election result

Labour has held on to a council seat in the Salford constituency of Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, despite her involvement in the expenses row.

Matt Mold won the Irwell Riverside by-election with a reduced majority. The Lib Dems came second and the BNP third.

It was the first test of voter feeling following the expenses scandal.

Ms Blears has paid £13,332 to the Inland Revenue after she failed to pay capital gains tax on the sale of the flat designated as her second home.

She told the taxman the property was her main residence, an action Gordon Brown called "unacceptable".

Backlash

Ms Blears attended the count on Thursday night and said she was "absolutely delighted" with the outcome.

Speaking afterwards, she said: "The result shows the values of Salford people are the values of the Labour Party."

BY-ELECTION RESULTS
Labour - 606 votes
Lib Dems - 293 votes
BNP - 276 votes
Conservatives - 189 votes
Green - 125 votes
UKIP - 123 votes

Labour officials in Salford had braced themselves for a backlash from voters and a possible surge in BNP support.

In the end, with voter turnout just 17.5%, Mr Mold received 606 votes followed by the Liberal Democrats with 293.

The BNP took 276 votes, the Conservatives 189, the Green Party 125 and UKIP 123.

After the result was announced, there were some scuffles involving BNP activists who shouted at Ms Blears and tried to present her with a chocolate bar, in reference to one of her expenses claims.

She replied by saying the people of Salford had "firmly and thoroughly rejected the politics of the BNP".

She also insisted her own position in the Cabinet was secure: "You have heard the prime minister say he has full support for me, I'm doing a great job as secretary of state and I get on with it.

"I am a minister, but most importantly I am the Member of Parliament for Salford and tonight Salford has given me a great result and I couldn't ask for anything better."

When we take Hazel out with us there is tremendous support for her
Matt Mold, Labour councillor, Irwell Riverside

She added: "I get on with my job, I'm the MP for Salford, I go out, I talk to people, I don't disappear away behind closed curtains."

Local rival

Mr Mold insisted Ms Blears had been an asset to his by-election campaign.

"When we take Hazel out with us there is tremendous support for her," he said.

"The expenses issue is a national issue and we won tonight because we fought a local campaign on local issues and with a local candidate."

Former Independent MP Martin Bell said he might run against Ms Blears at the next election, but it would be "brilliant" if a local candidate could be found instead.

He told BBC Radio Manchester: "What I would prefer to see is what I call the local model, where some well-known local person [chooses to stand], and Salford is full of good people who could do this."



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