Martin Bright

Hazel Takes the Reins

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Hazel Blears knows exactly what she's doing by intervening in print during the Labour Party's darkest spring.

Think of it the other way around. Ministers know that when the Prime Minister pledges 100 per cent support then it's curtains. It's a sign of the declining authority of Number 10 that this rule has now been inverted. Cabinet loyalty is assumed. It should not have to be asserted.

Hazel Blears is stating the obvious, which is very dangerous indeed. Of course the government was on the wrong side of the gurkha debate, of course it is failing to communicate with the voters, of course the YouTube performance was a disaster. But Cabinet ministers are not supposed to say these things.

But senior Labour figures are now beginning to talk openly again about whether the present situation is sustainable (just as they did over last summer). The difference is that the Brown machine will not be able to stamp out dissent at conference as they did last year.

I found myself agreeing with Jessica Asato of the Blairite cheerleading organisation Progress on Radio Five Live this morning when she said that Hazel Blears had been brave to do what she did. But I couldn't agree that it wasn't an attack on the Prime Minister It will be interesting to see how Brown and those around him react to such an open and wounding broadside.