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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

You can contact John in the comments area or email him at j.rentoul@independent.co.uk

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I don't know

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Thursday, 4 June 2009 at 02:12 pm
I haven't commented on Hazel Blears's resignation, because I don't know what she meant by it. All I can do is claim credit for writing this in The Independent on the morning she announced she was going:

Nor would Blair have made the slip of the tongue by which Brown described Hazel Blears's property dealings as "totally unacceptable" – a slip that has caused the Prime Minister endless trouble since he made it two weeks ago.

It was, apparently, that very phrase that was the subject of her meeting with the Prime Minister on Tuesday night. She wanted him to accept that it was a mistake. Her misdemeanour, of avoiding Capital Gains Tax, was after all only marginally more reprehensible than those of Alistair Darling, James Purnell and Geoff Hoon.

Brown failed to oblige, and in such terms as convinced her that she was indeed about to lose her job in the reshuffle. She therefore decided that evening to resign, a decision that seems to have been driven part by emotion and part by calculation. So the reason given by "friends" speaking on her behalf was genuine, that she was furious at the way the Prime Minister had seemed to single her out. In addition she felt that No 10 sources had told journalists that she was likely to be sacked in the reshuffle. But I suspect that there were two calculations too. One was that she wanted to go before she was pushed, and with the reshuffle already edging towards Friday that meant going straight away, regardless of its effect on today's voting.

The other was that she would have wanted to undermine Brown. But how heavily that factor weighed in the balance, I don't know. We shall find out if she speaks up tonight, after the polls have closed so that she can't be accused of further undermining Labour's campaign, or tomorrow or whenever.

But if I don't know what she is up to, that is nothing to the mystery, riddle, sudoku and cryptic crossword wrapped up in an enigma that was Tom Watson's resignation on Tuesday. The Cabinet Office minister was the most prominent of the plotters that curtailed Tony Blair's premiership in the September coup of 2006.

What on earth was that about? 

Comments

fletchergeddon wrote:
Thursday, 4 June 2009 at 02:38 pm (UTC)
I suspect that Watson is seen as a tainted part of Brown's inner circle and may even have left for this selfless reason (!). By walking at another time his departure would have assumed greater prominence than sneaking out under cover of Smith and Hughes.
deimosp wrote:
Thursday, 4 June 2009 at 03:06 pm (UTC)
It was far more than just making a mistake about canital gains tax. Why did the tax payer need to buy her two TVs in two years.

However, in her situation (knowing for sure you were going to be sacked), I would have resigned. Her resignation does not undermine Brown. What undermined Brown is his failure to act when her expenses issues came to light. The fact that he did not pass her case to his "Star Chamber" (presumably as he thought he coud get away with 4 backbenchers and wanted to avopid cabinet and too many). He should have acted and then people might have held him in higher regard. Beamy Blears has already lost credibility with the electorate over her expenses - so resigning or being pushed makes no difference to anybody except her own ego.
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