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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.

  • Rob Dyson

    Tories were canny to claim some of this ground, but what’s really being claimed? Sure, charities and community action have been afforded a sharper focus under the Coalition Gov, but definitely not in the context we might prefer… Big Society doesn’t really like big charities, and if anything (for e.g in Nat Wei’s blog) there’s a sense of a little hounding of ‘professional’ non-profits and a growing murmur that citizens should do more without the need for national organisations with salaried directors.

    Labour *could* come out in defence of the sector in a positive light – and talk about the importance of governance and transparency (look at the statutory cuts to Charity Commission for instance)…More bang for public buck if charities are regulated and demonstrate impact. We’re clearly needed, in a time of retreating public services…

  • Kate Bowgett

    I fail to see what the colour of Hazel Blears’ hair has to do with this. Third Sector has never felt the need to comment on a male politician’s appearence in reference to a news story, why do so for a female politician?

  • Charlie Smith

    Its just lazy journalism – they cant be boethered to do the research so use something widely known and obvious to describe someone.

    For my part I am not at all a fan of Blears – she had a mixed Ministerial career and annoyed many many people in Parliament, the Labour movement and the coluntary sector with her brusque personal manner and this folksy kind of nostalgia and the ‘look at me I’m a working class hero’ speeches she repaeats ad nauseam – she is also (I think) a nobody having flounced out of her Ministerial job in June 2009 kicking up a fuss hoping that her departure would cause Brown to fall, in actual fact very few people actually noticed. It is bad for the voluntary sector that Blears is poking around. blackman-wood had better get her act together and show her who is boss