MP’s expenses scandal and pressure on Gordon Brown to quit continues to overshadow tomorrow’s European elections.
The BBC reports that the Communities Secretary and Minister of the State, Hazel Blears has sensationally resigned from Gordon Brown’s cabinet, increasing pressure on UK Prime Minister to step down.
Her departure is the second top-level resignation on the eve of the European and English local elections.
It led to stormy Commons scenes as Mr Brown denied his government was in “meltdown” and rejected calls for an immediate general election.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson has been forced to issue a denial that he is ready to take over amid reports of a backbench plot – in political speak terms a sure sign that he about to do just that.
Mr Johnson told the BBC:
“He is doing the job and there is absolutely no one who could do that job better.”
The BBC reports that is has seen a proposed letter from one Labour MP calling on Mr Brown to step down.
Never one to shy away from ‘kicking a man when he’s down’, Tory leader David Cameron said the Prime Minister was “in denial” and the communities secretary resigning on the eve of local government elections was a “direct challenge to his authority”.
He said Mr Brown’s team was now “deserting him”, the government was “collapsing” and he urged the prime minister to “get down to the Palace, ask for a dissolution, call an election”.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg joined the growing calls for a general election:
“It’s a tragedy that exactly at the time when people need help, need action, the country doesn’t have a government, it has a void. Labour is finished.”
Ms Blears has been under fire over her expenses claims despite repaying £13,000 to the Inland Revenue, following allegations she avoided paying capital gains tax on a property sale.
The Salford MP denied doing anything wrong but although Mr Brown described her claims as “totally unacceptable”, he did not take any further action against Ms Blears.
Last month she launched what was seen as a thinly-veiled attack on Mr Brown in a newspaper article, criticising the government’s “lamentable” failure to get its message across.
In an apparent jibe at the PM’s much-mocked appearance on You Tube, she said:
“YouTube if you want to. But it’s no substitute for knocking on doors or setting up a stall in the town centre.”
She was tipped for the axe in the forthcoming reshuffle, but has stolen the initiative from Mr Brown.
Home Secretary (Home Office) Jacqui Smith, who also faced expenses criticism and went public on Tuesday with her decision to stand down, said she backed Mr Brown and denied Ms Blears was deliberately trying to undermine him.
BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson described the move as:
“Deliberate, calculated and with intent. That is the only possible interpretation of Hazel Blears’ decision to resign today.”
The European and Local elections take place in a few hours and Ms Blears timing can only be seen as a direct and planned attack on Gordon Brown’s leadership.
Labour is running at their lowest popularity level in the polls since polls began, and are expecting nothing short of a disastrous result in tomorrow’s election.
Meanwhile the smaller parties and independent MEP candidates are being overlooked by the media in a European Parliamentary election which has been overshadowed by the MP’s expenses scandal.
Five London independent MEP candidates, all from ethnic minority backgrounds, were ignored by the mainstream press and the BBC this week at their ‘no press’ press conference.
Gene Alcantara, Haroon Saad, Sohale Rahman, Steven Cheung and Jan Jananayagam hope to buck the trend against independents as voters desert the main parties.
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