The press pack descended on Salford last Thursday hoping to witness the sacking of Hazel Blears MP, who was up before a jury of 44 of her fellow local Labour Party members.
The press poked around a bit and hooked up with local guides to get a bit of knowledge and colour that they could file down the line for eager editors and vision mixers awaiting copy at offices and studios in Manchester and London.
Assisting the media luvvies in telling the drama unfolding in Swinton Town Hall was an assortment of Salford folk of all ages…disaffected homeless youngsters from Salford Youth Council, Unison members, activists and non aligned residents of Weaste, Seedley, Broughton and Swinton. All had a common cause - they wanted to show their absolute contempt for Hazel, Salford MP of 12 years.
Despite the rain and the non appearance of the central hate figure, the crowd obliged the press pack with interviews and sound bites revealing their collective disappointment with Blears. They cited her total disinterest in their plight when seeking help over housing conditions, work and health issues.
My favourite quote of the evening came from Alison who was basically robbed of her home in Reservoir Street in Langworthy. Having paid £18,000 for her property she was then offered only £3,000 compensation to make way for the infamous Urban Splash, Chimney Pot Park, Upside Down Houses. This put her in a desperate situation forcing her to leave the house that was her pride and joy and still be in debt to the tune of £15,000 with the existing mortgage.
Alison tried in vain to speak to Blears, deciding in her words: "It would be easier to get an appointment with Elvis."
A great line but one acquired by years of suffering in the realisation that all she had worked for, was cheated from her to make way for developers profit dressed up as progress and regeneration.
Of course it is such a great line that it proved irresistible to broadsheet columnists and they quoted her, though minus the history of suffering and frustration that went into coining it. It's not sexy enough for the scribes of Canary Wharf - they calculate that their readers don't want to know about the nuts and bolts of deprivation and enforced poverty of some unlucky Salford lass.
What is sexy is the dethroning of an ex cabinet, ice queen who feathered her nest too liberally, got caught out and had the brass neck to instigate an abortive coup on the eve of the election. Nice broad Westminster strokes, not the minutiae of an insignificant constituent who was silly enough to buy her two up two down in the wrong post code.
Great Westminster soap opera so far but the local party nomenclature had not read the script, and following the meeting with an apparently very contrite Hazel, local party members decided to support her.
Against all reason and sense she remains the honourable member for Salford and has blamed everybody else but her own greed, arrogance and lack of judgement for her actions.
The decision beggars belief. I quizzed one rationally challenged member before the meeting, asking him if he expected the vote to go against Blears. He gave an emphatic "no"
`So is it a done deal?' I asked
"No it is not a done deal but they won't drop her"
Why not after what she has done?
"Yeah but she said she is sorry and who would replace her? And she has done a lot for Salford…"
Well that's not what the people here are saying, they think the opposite…
"Well she has" he insists "I'm a full time student at Salford University and she employs students in her office…She doesn't have to, there's a lot of MPs that don't."
So you are going to vote for her on the basis of self interest?
"No it's not self interest."
Well that what it looks like to me…At which point the potential candidate for a summer job in Hazel's office put his head down and continued into the meeting.
It was not looking good for a hard news heaven ending as the anchor men and women practised their pieces to camera, all the time sensing disappointment as the meeting went beyond the scheduled 9.30 ending without conclusion. It was after 10:30pm that voting members emerged from the meeting and revealed the result.
Some were tight lipped, others disgorged titbits revealing the tone and content of the proceedings. Blears had "fought for her political life explaining the pressure she was under" said one. Another party stalwart said he was in favour of postponing the decision tonight so the vote could go out to all party members...but had given her the benefit of the doubt and voted in her favour. He insisted she had been honourable explaining the pressure she had come under which influenced her actions.
Could she now go on to win another term in an election?
"There is a strong possibility she can make up lost ground…"
And what was she doing to endear herself to Salfordians, some who had braved the driving rain and were keeping up a noisy vigil on the steps of the town hall? Did she put on her brave face, come out, look them in the eye in her much vaunted no nonsense manner and ask for a fresh start?
No she did not. After granting the BBC an exclusive short interview, much to the annoyance of the rest of the press, she waited till most of the `grass roots Salfordians' had gone home, then she scuttled down the steps flanked by her police entourage doubling as footmen to her downsized Cinderella.
But I fear that for Hazel, unlike the press and Party, her story with ordinary Salfordians will not have a fairy tale ending...
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