I probably approached this the wrong way round, but first I read through the list of endorsements, and ended up neither wiser nor better informed about what the job actually entails nor why Ms Blears is particularly well suited for it. Martyn Jones MP (of whom I’d not previously heard, I must confess) writes
I am supporting Hazel because it will be good to have a male/female team at the top of the Party.
I mean, if you were writing a job reference for someone, would you actually say, ‘I think Ms Blears would be an excellent appointment primarily because she’s a woman and you need a woman in that post’? Would any normal woman appreciate such an endorsement? Meanwhile, Hilary Armstrong MP (who is apparently ‘Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Social Exclusion Minister’) wants
to support a woman who has her feet firmly on the ground,
often the best place to put your feet, to my mind, particularly when you’ve not only got your nose to the grindstone but also your shoulder to the wheel.
Then I turned to What The Job Is, or at least what Hazel Blears thinks it is, and, frankly, that left me somewhat perturbed.
Our deputy leader should be the party members’ voice at the cabinet table, putting the party’s interests first. Anything which falls short is an insult to our activists
No, that’s the job of a party official, not a cabinet minister. Obviously self-interested party calculation is going to play a role in government thinking, whatever the government; that’s the nature of life. But actually to say, in effect, ‘I’m going to sit in cabinet meetings doing my damnedest to put our party’s political self-interest first’ is truly extraordinary. And she wants a whole government department, it would seem, staffed by what’s supposed to be an impartial civil service, to help her in this enterprise:
If elected, I will argue that we need a cabinet post for delivery, working across government departments with ministers, MPs, trade unions, the national policy forum, and our local parties, so that when we put a manifesto to the people at an election, I will make it happen over the lifetime of a parliament
That she can’t see anything wrong in this — indeed, that she sees her enthusiasm for it as her main qualification for the job — tells us a great deal, to my mind, about the corruption of public life that’s one of the more lamentable parts of Mr Blair’s legacy.
Next I turned to the Debate section of her blog, in an attempt to discover the sort of advice she’ll be offering at cabinet meetings. Apparently, Only a strong society can stop gun culture. We mustn’t over-react, it seems, which comes as a welcome rebuke to anyone who thinks, on the contrary, we ought to over-react. On reading this, I initially thought it strange that John Reid is one of her supporters, but then I discovered that apparently we need ‘policing which makes people feel safe, and that includes armed police on the streets,’ which put the matter into perspective. We also require ‘a sober assessment of our gun laws, and if necessary they must be updated and strengthened’ (I’d have thought it would take a pretty drunken assessment to come up with ways of strengthening our gun laws, but there you go) and ‘the Salford Lads’ Club in my own constituency’ is an example to us all.
To be fair, I’ve no more idea what to do about teenagers murdering each other than has she, but I’m not the one asking for a place in the cabinet to whitter on about it and a whole government department to help me so to do.