Hazel Blears risks stepping on Roberta Blackman-Woods’ toes

Hazel Blears is back, and she’s set her
sights on the voluntary sector.

The fiery readhead (now with a toned-down
auburn hairdo) has been keeping a close eye on the government’s big society
agenda, which she says it has stolen from Labour. And now she’s trying to
improve it.

Blears has tabled a private members’ bill
that she thinks will pressure banks to give more money and staff time to
community groups. She has also written to charities minister Nick Hurd, asking
him to guarantee that assets transferred from the public sector to mutuals and
co-operative groups can’t later be sold to the private sector.

Both moves are well-intentioned, but they
risk stepping on the toes of Roberta Blackman-Woods, Labour’s shadow civil
society minister, who has so far been relatively quiet.

And the ideas are baby steps compared to
the work Labour will have to do to claim back the big society agenda, which
Blears claims is founded on her own party’s principles of co-operation and
mutual action. 

After 13 years of Labour government, the
coalition found it easy to claim voluntary and community action as its own home
ground. Blears and the rest of her party face a difficult fight to claw it back.