It's Euro election voting day in Salford, and outside Hazel Blears' house the tv and press people are getting bored of staking the place out. It's been 18 hours and no sign of the MP who a day earlier had stuck the knife in Gordon Brown's back before he could ditch her, stating she was "returning to the grassroots…to the cut and thrust of political debate".
But for once when there's a camera around, Hazel's gone to ground. She's nowhere to be seen. Today she's not up to the `cut and thrust of political debate'. And the media are about to head off when along the road comes a crowd of people carrying balloons and banners declaring `Hazel Welcomes Tax Dodgers' and `Blearsland Tax Free Zone' and `Blearsland Twinned With Jersey'.
Sporting a huge placard proclaiming a `Capital Gains Tax Free Zone' is Mark Thomas, infamous for the Mark Thomas Comedy Product on Channel 4. The show took comedy to a place where laughter turned to anger as the full sick extent of the political system was hung out to dry, years before we all cottoned on to banking bonuses and MPs' moats and duck houses. Mark's doing a live gig in Manchester and has come to visit Hazel to see for himself the special privileges that our MP enjoys.
"What we're celebrating here is that Hazel Blears has got this wonderful magical area" he says, and pointing to her path adds "I think if you step over that line you're in Hazel Blears land, where normal laws do not apply."
The media people suddenly spring to life – they've got the story they've wanted all week – the first organised protest in Salford against Hazel Blears.
"Most constituents in Salford are in some of the poorest areas in Europe" says Mark "yet she can turn around and produce thirteen grand out of nowhere to pay for a tax bill that she should have paid for, and that hasn't been properly adjudged by an independent tax assessor…
"I imagine" he adds "that people would be pretty pissed off, and if not I would want to ask people from Salford `Why aren't you pissed off ?...Your MP is diddling the books' – you can add it up any way you like but if you don't pay your tax on your second home you've avoided it – evaded it."
It's now emerged that the thirteen grand cheque Hazel was waving around wasn't just to cover non payment of capital gains tax on one home she sold in London in 2004 for £200,000, making a profit of £45,000. It was also supposed to cover a profit of £35,000 for another flat she sold four years earlier, in London Docklands for £150,000. Both were designated second homes for Parliamentary expenses but main homes for the taxman.
…Add on the Kit Kats, the posh hotel, the food, the camera, the tellies, the bath towels, the bed, the train fares for her husband, the personal tax advice, the mortgage payments, the hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of `allowances'...and the huge salary and pension…and, yep, people are pretty `pissed off'.
"This is a house of cards in many ways and it's half way fallen down" Mark explains "The point is that what we're seeing now is a wholesale collapse because people are going `Why on earth are these people deceiving us? Why are they trying to hide this stuff? Why are they cheating the system?'
"It's not just a question of a few missed payments, this is fraud…THIS IS FRAUD" he repeats "This is corruption and you can dress it up any way you want but we need a campaign on the scale of the Italian Clean Hands Campaign to get hold of this and go `We've had enough! This is unacceptable!'
"I think the most important thing is to investigate what's going on" he adds "and after that I think that anyone who has made claims that are inappropriate, bordering on fraud, should actually be made to stand down."
But as anyone who has seen Mark Thomas's tv or live shows will expect, he believes that the MPs expenses scandal is just a part of a much wider system where bankers, developers and speculators all feed from the same trough. For Mark and friends, Hazel Blears has a lot more to answer for than the expenses scandal.
Having made their point outside Hazel's house, later in the day they move on to the Salford tax office, near The Lowry Hotel, where the true madness of Hazel's ideology is truly exposed…"The tax office are paying rent to tax dodgers" says Mark.
Here's a tax office building owned by a private company based in tax haven Jersey which the Inland Revenue is renting back at extortionate rates…
There's a noisy demo outside which is joined by PCS trade union members from the tax office, together with a person dressed as a wolf and loads of others carrying banners calling for the invasion of Jersey. Here, £100billion, Mark says, is going offshore in "tax avoidance, evasion and corporate tax efficiency" while almost half the island's population are on income support.
"It's a just, noble, winnable war" he argues "And I think we can probably have a whip round and get a boat to do it. Jersey is famous for its agriculture – Jersey tomatoes, potatoes, cream…yet all that is just 1% of their GDP…tourism is 2% - all the rest of it is the international off shore tax havens and international tax offices. So when we talk about invading Jersey we're actually talking about liberating the people of Jersey so they've got a viable place to live and work, and can actually have an island which is theirs rather than being the off shore refuge of the buccaneers of the financial system and laissez fair capitalism."
The media haven't followed Mark Thomas and friends down to this demo, as it's all a bit too complicated for the easy headlines and soundbites. But this financial system is at the root of the recession which Mark largely blames on Hazel Blears and her like-minded mates in the Government.
"The shadow banking system was the architect and motor of the derivative markets and hedge funds and the likes that actually took our lives in the forms of the hospitals and the schools that have been under the PFI [Private Finance Initiative]…in terms of people's pensions and mortgages…the fact that councils don't even do council housing any more – they've taken our lives and speculated it.
"That is why people are angry – it's not just the fact that politicians have betrayed us, it's not just the fact that they've milked the system – it's their ideology of neo-liberalism, of laissez fair capitalism. For the past thirty years we've been milked dry and there's nothing left for us. And I think people are fucking furious – we've been betrayed on every single level and it's about time we actually stood up and said `We don't want your free market'. `We don't want your fucking globalising ways'…`We don't want this thing where it works for the rich and powerful – we want communities that work for us'.
"Hazel Blears was at the forefront of this" he explains "She was an apparatchik for Blair, she was an apparatchik for the new Labour machine that believed above and beyond the free market – well the chickens have come home to roost now Hazel."
He pauses for a second and concludes…"It's quite obvious that there's been an incredible mishandling of the system – there's a systemic breakdown, there needs to be a systemic answer. In the absence of that it's going to be local campaigns that keep it moving."
Those campaigns are beginning to take shape in Salford and will be evident over the next few weeks
Hazel Blears - with her expenses scandal, her shallow `Rocking The Boat' badge and media games, her calculated resignation on the eve of the election, and her shameless see-through careerism - has to shoulder a portion of the blame, as angry voters were completely turned off from voting in last night's Euro Election.
The Labour Party managed to lose over 200,000 votes in the North West since the last Euro election, which allowed the fascist BNP to sneak a seat in the European Parliament for the first time, and collect hundreds of thousands of pounds in allowances. We hope Hazel Blears can face herself in the mirror this morning, having, we believe, contributed to this outcome. And then some...