Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 20:18 UK

Profile: Hazel Blears

Hazel Blears
Age: 53
Job: Former Communities Secretary
Political pedigree: Long-time Labour councillor, later "Blair babe" whose chirpy enthusiasm had been welcomed into the Brown cabinet

Hazel Blears, who has announced her resignation from Gordon Brown's cabinet on the eve of the European and council elections, has always been a high-visibility member of the Labour government.

The diminutive, red-haired, motorcycle-riding communities secretary was regularly wheeled out to defend controversial policy - a task she invariably performed with unflinching loyalty and chirpy enthusiasm.

But her stock in Downing Street fell after she was seen to attack Gordon Brown's political style in a barbed comment: "You Tube if you want to" - apparently aimed at the prime minister's recent performance on the internet.

The heart of her attack, in a newspaper article, was aimed at Labour's "lamentable" failure to get its message across to ordinary people.

In apparent retaliation, Mr Brown later said Ms Blears was guilty of "totally unacceptable behaviour" after her expense claims were exposed in the Daily Telegraph.

From then, her days in the cabinet appeared numbered.

Political background

There is a strong suspicion that Ms Blears's resignation, so close to crucial elections for her party, may have been a deliberate attempt to undermine the prime minister.

The brooch she chose to wear as her resignation became public attracted much attention - it sported the message "rocking the boat".

The suspicions are also reinforced by her political background.

Rocking the boat brooch worn by Hazel Blears
Ms Blears' brooch attracted some comment

As a loyal Blairite before Gordon Brown took the helm, she supported measures which annoyed many left-wingers, like foundation hospitals and the Iraq war.

And when she served as a home office minister under Tony Blair, she oversaw the introduction of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), and was seen as an enforcer of the PM's famous "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" commitment.

The vexed brief of police force reform - opposed vehemently by many chief constables - also fell into her lap, as did the task of helping to push controversial anti-terror legislation through Parliament.

Never a stranger to controversy, Ms Blears was forced to defend herself against accusations of hypocrisy when, with a seat in Mr Blair's cabinet, she joined protests against government-approved hospital cuts in her constituency.

She also departed from her normally ultra-loyal stance to speak out about the damaging effect which she believed the "cash for honours" affair was having on the government.

As Labour prepared itself for a change in leadership, Ms Blears became Labour party chairman in 2006, where her task was to unite a fractious party behind Gordon Brown.

But her loyalty to the party was apparently rebuffed when the following year she finished sixth in the contest to become deputy leader.

'Like Marmite'

Nevertheless, when Mr Brown took over at the top she secured a central role in his cabinet.

As communities secretary her task was to unite communities and challenge "unacceptable" religious practices such as forced marriages or homophobia.

It was seen as an appropriate post for the blunt, yet sympathetic, minister who once described herself as like Marmite - either loved or loathed.

It has been a quite a journey for Ms Blears, MP for the historically safe Labour seat of Salford since 1997, who was initially not a natural New Labour supporter, but who nevertheless became elected as one of the original "Blair Babes".

She used to be on the left of the party and opposed the abolition of Clause IV - Labour's once sacrosanct commitment to nationalisation - by Mr Blair.

A lawyer by trade, Ms Blears used to be a member of various libertarian pressure groups and has plenty of experience in the ways of large organisations.

Before working in the Home Office, her previous ministerial experience was at the Department of Health, and before entering Parliament she was principal solicitor for Manchester City Council.

Born in Salford in 1956, the daughter of a maintenance fitter, she was educated at The Wardley Grammar School in Swinton, Eccles Sixth Form College, Trent Polytechnic and Chester College of Law.

She counts among her favourite pastimes tap-dancing and fell-walking, but perhaps her best-known hobby is motorcycling - she rides a vintage Italian motorbike.

In her resignation statement Ms Blears described her ambition to return "to the people who matter the most to me: the people of Salford".

Indeed, among her first acts after her expenses were revealed was to return to her constituency, where she brandished a repayment cheque for £13,000 and promised to "rebuild trust" with her voters.



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