"She's a minging, unprincipled little gravy train sponger who really should be shot. However there seems to be 16,655 dickheads in Salford who are stupid enough to vote Labour and re-elect the little parasite…
"Up yours Salford, never again will I spend a penny in Salford whether that be in a public lavvie or watching Salford RLFC (now known as Salford City Reds), or even visiting the Lowry. If you're stupid enough to vote for her then wallow in your own filth."
This post, from a blog called A Brief Encounter, is typical of the country's mood towards Salford and its people in the wake of the city re-electing Hazel Blears as MP, despite her central media role in the expenses scandal.
The SKY News web comments were typical of the vitriol poured on our city…
"Hazel Blairs was counting on the stupidity of Salford Labour voters and she got it. She need not gloat as anything Labour put up as a candidate in Salford would have been elected." Jam62
"..our democracy will cease to exist, due in no small way to the 16000 or so voters of Salford and Eccles who voted for this disgraceful woman." Albion.
"The area has 'high unemployment and crime'. No wonder Labour are voted back in. Under what other party are you better off not working?" Scotletmak
"Are they all stupid up there? By voting for her, they are condoning dishonesty and greed." Allan Hansen
And Twitter was no better…
"The cheating corrupt Hazel Blears voted back - thick, unthinking, immoral Labour vote. Says everything" JKS79
"Salford hang your collective head in shame..." MRRX
"Hazel Blears? What stupid cnuts voted her back in?" TbishopFinger
"By the way how thick are the people of Salford to re-elect that vile woman Hazel Blears?" Craigmmorq4
"hazel blears is still in salford? evidently salfordians can't read, so its pot luck as to where the cross went." Amyinyour face
"Salford is a toilet, and will remain so when MediaCity takes over the town. But Hazel Poxing Blears proves that the many-headed are idiots." Mediaevalman
The smaller the websites, the more vicious the forums. This stuff from bbs forum…
"You have obviously never been to Salford then...Door locked windows up and put your foot down. It's one of the worst areas of the country. The state handouts are used as pin money, the big money is in drug dealing. I've seen top of the range Merc's, BMW's,Lexus etc parked outside the DHSS offices." Vito
"Salford is deprived but a lot of decent hard working people live in the City and you shouldn't tar them all with the same brush as the odd scum bag" Wigan Bear
"Of course there are many decent people in Salford just as there must be the odd one in Somalia". Vito
Nice eh? In the national press there was just shock. Hazel "remarkably" held onto her seat and "escaped punishment" despite Salford being in "open revolt last summer", wrote The Guardian. While The Daily Mail added that hers was the stand out result of the night… "Perhaps most surprisingly, Hazel Blears was re-elected as an MP in Salford."
So was Hazel's re-election as MP "remarkable" and "surprising"? And are we all "thick" in Salford for voting Ms Blears back in?
The first thing is that the majority of people in Salford did not vote for Hazel Blears. 45% of the electorate didn't vote at all. And of those 55% who did vote, around 60% of them didn't vote for Hazel either. She got 16,655 out of 41,533 votes cast. Or 16,655 out of 75,482 possible total votes. Or 22%. So, under a quarter of people in Salford voted for Hazel Blears. And 9.4% of people `swung' away from Labour towards the Lib Dems.
But Hazel Blears still got elected with a 5,725 majority, which under our current voting system is a ringing endorsement. So was it an endorsement of Hazel Blears or fear of Cameron's Conservative cuts that got Hazel back in?
Before the election the Salford Star said that Salford people had a terrible dilemma – to vote against Hazel or vote against the Tories. And post election, Salford people's attitude is explained by both the comments on the Star website and the people we have spoken to. Here's two quotes that sum it up – and far from the Salford slagging that has been going on around the country these show that people thought hard and long about how and why they voted and can articulate it perfectly.
"I voted Labour because it was a vote for the party not the individual" says Mary "That over-rode my feelings about the individual. Labour was the best of the parties because they said they would protect working family tax credits, and they're not the party who are going to offer big cuts in corporation tax for the banks who got us into this mess. Labour aren't going to axe inheritance tax for the wealthy and bring back fox hunting. They have invested a great deal of money in education, and people who dispute this clearly can't remember the state of our schools in the 70s and 80s under the Tories when it was one text book between three pupils."
A comment by someone called `Salford Freak' on the Star website also sums up the anguish…
"I've decided to explain, rationally and without hyperbole, why I decided to vote for Ms Blears. I am not a stupid person and the argument that the Salford electorate are 'stupid' or `don't care' offends me. I'm a socialist and this dilemma literally kept me awake at night. Literally. I made that cross in the box with tears in my eyes because I was torn. I was torn between allowing Labour to lose another seat and by default, allowing the Tories to win the election, or voting for David Henry.
"I remember Thatcher's Tories…I remember how she decimated public services, marched her stiletto heels all over workers' rights and cut any element of strong, united society she could get her hands on. I remember 1997 and the wave of optimism under a Labour government. I remember my increasing disappointment as Labour failed to deliver on what it promised me, though I do remember those small victories too - minimum wage and tax credits being two.
"I remember watching Hazel on the telly, waving her cheque about, and I remember feeling literally sick to my stomach….I had a decision to make. Fight the Tories or fight Hazel. And I'm not scared to admit that I chose to fight the Tories. But I'm also hoping to fight Hazel from the inside…
"…What I'm ashamed and sad about is that the constituency Labour Party put me in this horrendous dilemma. They had a choice, both before and after the expenses scandal, and I feel that they failed to do the right thing…. My Labour party (a bunch of good people) had the chance to rid Salford of everything that was wrong with Blair's Labour party and deselect Hazel for Salford and Eccles - both when the boundary changes were first announced and after 'rocking the boat'. But they didn't have the balls. If anyone should be ashamed of themselves, it's the people in that room that day…
"…I'm hoping that this electoral crisis will force the Labour party to re-evaluate its roots and return to socialism. Is that the right decision? A lot of people here will say no. And I'm still not sure I did the right thing…Maybe I'll lie awake every single night and rue the day I voted for Hazel. I hope not. I hope it pays off. But that's why I did what I did. Castigate my decision making if you want, debate it with me. But don't call me stupid and don't accuse me of not caring."
Salford remains officially one of the most so-called `deprived' areas in the country, despite the Labour Party being in office since 1997. It's bad. But what came before was worse. And families clearly remember it.
When people were making up their minds to vote Labour - and by default keep Hazel Blears as MP – they obviously thought that the few crumbs on offer were better than the proposed smashing up of the kitchen offered by other mainstream parties. It was the only logical conclusion.
Perhaps the rest of the country's big mouths who slag off Salfordians and would vote to remove Labour might want to examine their own heads.