Blears clears her desk
Say what you want about the expenses row - we've found it just about the most entertaining thing to have happened in politics since the Westland Affair back in 1986 permanently screwed up Heseltine's chances of ever becoming Prime Minister - but you have to admit it's had its good sides.
The latest of these has been Hazel Blears' (pictured right, top) decision to resign. Blears says she plans to quit because she wants to "return to the grassroots (where I began), to political activism, to the cut and thrust of political debate." Not because of that £13,000 you rather deviously didn't pay in capitals gains tax on the second home you sold until you were forced to because the story became public, then?
All in all, this has been a pretty good week - we've also got rid of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith (pictured below left)- and it's still only Wednesday! Smith, of course, was somewhat embarrassed when payment for two porn films her husband (who is also employed as her assistant) watched on pay-per-view showed up on her expenses, an incident that quite possibly sparked off the Daily Telegraph's interest in the phenomenon and led to their getting hold of the report they've subsequently used to ensure what is probably the first increase in sales they've had in many moons (or at least since most people realised the paper is little more than a journal for semi-fascist Tory old farts, at any rate). In March this year, a poll of Labour Party members - which was then leaked - revealed that just 56% thought she was doing a good job and many considered her to be the worst-performing Cabinet minister. Since then, it has been revealed that Smith claimed a total of over £157,000. A week is a long time in politics, or so the old saying goes, so who knows how many more high-profile fraudsters...er, we mean politicians (though it increasingly looks as though we were all correct in assuming the two words mean the same thing) will do the honourable thing by the end of the week?
Interestingly, nobody is quite sure who leaked the story of the porn films. However, it seems that only two people knew about it. One of them was Gordon Brown, who for all his faults is a relatively professional man and who would be unlikely to want to rock his government with scandal so soon after achieving prime ministership. The other was...Hazel Blears - the Telegraph reported that "Sources close to Downing Street suggested that Miss Smith’s decision only became public after it was leaked by friends of Miss Blears." Blears and Smith are known to have been friends and, well...if one of my friends had found themselves in a sticky and potentially very embarrassing situation, I'd try to protect them - but then, I'm not a politician. Blears has also been a very vocal critic of both Brown - most notably attacking his regrettable (for anyone who has seen it) YouTube appearance - and recent government performance. It was after she made her comments on the YouTube video that Brown attacked her expenses in a classic example of a playground feud, adding fuel to the fire that has grown from the increasing friction between Blears and No.10 which has caused many to speculate that the Prime Minister would either demote or sack her come the next ministerial reshuffle. Another of the Telegraph's sources claimed that the story would likely have been leaked by somebody who wished to "destabilise Gordon Brown", which is interesting as back-benchers have been urging her to challenge Brown and put herself forward as a potential Labour leader.
So, did she stab her supposed friend in the back? Just goes to show - she's not to be trusted. Which is, of course, precisely what we have learned from the whole expenses row - politicians are incapable of regulating their own activities and cannot be trusted. An independent body, with the powers to keep checks on them, is desperately needed if we are to ever have faith in them from now on.