Blears: My resignation "is something I will regret forever"

Ex-Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, who resigned last week just prior to the elections, has spoken ruefully of her decision to go.

"In the end, that judgement was wrong," she says, adding that she was under the impression that leaving so soon after the departure of two other ministers - including her friend (supposedly) Jacqui Smith - would avoid causing more trouble than necessary.

Ms. Blears was seen to be wearing a brooch bearing the words "rocking the boat" as she travelled back to her constituency shortly after handing in her resignation - an act she also regrets, saying that it came after several weeks of intense media attention concerning her expenses claims, which included claims for three separate properties in a single year and bills from what the BBC have called some of the capital's "most fashionable hotels," had clouded her judgement. She continues to claim that allegations related to her expenses "genuinely are not true."

Hazel Blears throws up her hands in regret at her decision to resign. Nobody else does, though.

She originally designated a property in her Salford constituency as her official home, allowing her to make claims to cover costs on it including the £300 per month mortgage, but later "flipped," so that a flat in Kennington, South London, became her second home - this allowed her to claim for the £700 monthly mortgage on that home. Then, in 2004, she sold it for £200,000 to an ex-Labour MP, making £45,000 profit and stayed at various hotels - including one at £211 a night - during September and October 2004, before purchasing a new London home for £300,000 with a £1000 per week mortgage. Ms. Blears is also known to have claimed for an £850 television, a £651 mattress, £4874 for furniture, £913 for another television, an £899 bed, £668 for bedlinen and curtains and assorted other items; in addition to regularly claiming the maximum monthly allowable figure for food, £400.

During 2004-5, she spent just £94 less than the ceiling limit of £20,902. She must have realised she was missing out at that point, because in the last two years she has claimed to the penny the maximum amount she could possibly get.

Ms. Blears may regret her resignation. But the tax-payers - us - most certainly don't.

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