I understand that the long awaited bout between Salford MP Hazel Blears and Eccles MP Ian Stewart for the Salford & Eccles constituency Labour nomination is now well underway. Postal ballots have been sent out, and the spoils will be awarded to the victor this coming Saturday, January 19th.
The conventional wisdom would tell everyone that as a cabinet minister, Hazel is going to walk the selection. Now, I’m sadly no expert on the internal processes of the Salford & Eccles Labour Party, but I suspect this selection contest will go right down to the wire. Being a senior party figure, Hazel should have all the advantages, but there are three things which may work against her, two of which are entirely her own fault.
- Hazel is the Secretary of State for Local Government, and has just presided over the worst grant settlement for Salford City Council in decades. She’s also responsible for the decision to claw back the LABGI local authority new business rate grant which will have a catastrophic effect on the Council’s finances this year – more on that soon.
- Her behaviour over the closure of the Maternity Unit at Hope Hospital – especially after the final announcement – was nothing short of appalling.
- I have heard on the grapevine that the two wards in Hazel’s current Salford constituency with the highest Labour Party membership are Kersal and Broughton – and both have been hived off into the new Blackley & Broughton constituency.
One thing is for sure though, Ian Stewart has a lot more riding on this selection vote than Hazel Blears does. If Stewart does not succeed, his Commons career looks to be over. If Blears fails, it will be mightily embarassing to have a senior cabinet minister chucked out by her own party members, but she will be found a poor unsuspecting constituency into which she can be parachuted.