Andrew Neil, "is he still alive?" you ask? well yes sir he is, has a twinkle in his eye. This may be why twinkly Hazel Blears appears to like the man, despite he being a degenerate Tory rascal, and included his Daily Politics (Tuesday) in her coming out media matrix at this year's Labour Party Conference in Manchester. Quite a flurry of activity actually, after the best part of eighteen months concentrating on constituency matters and keeping her head down.
So, here she is accepting perhaps half a dozen significant fringe appointments and speaking, for the most part off the cuff without notes and in her own inimitable down to earth way. Plenty of interviews with scribblers and with broadcast media. Good value is Hazel and despite the cheeky twinkle, and the odd edgy truthful aside, I didn't see her put a foot wrong myself. Two of the fringes I witnessed myself.
An 100% straightforward and faultless performance alongside Ben Bradshaw and others at the Demos/Dr Fosters health debate, discussing how the NHS might get more for less; answer: prioritise public health and prevention and keeping people out of acute care; and providing an absolutely coherent explanation of why she defended Salford's maternity services, yet supported the reconfiguration agenda as a whole. It was and is ridiculous and lame not to be able to grasp the possibility of doing both at once.
Plus a bold, brave appearance at the Progress/Quilliam event "How should the British left engage with Islamists?". Probably the most controversial thing she said there was a perfectly reasonable aside about one or two of the leadership contenders and their new found fallibility on Iraq. To recap on that one: Ed Balls crossed over without much reluctance to a with hindsight anti-war position, David Miliband the same with somethingly more reluctance, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott stayed true to their respective spears and ploughshares, Ed Miliband wasn't there for the vote and had no real previous.
She did have that born again weasel Andrew Gilligan gurning and reaching for his smart 'phone to tweet some wry poison but, let's face it, after almost 50 hustings and 20 other events the leadership candidates' moves on this were no secret.
Somewhere or other Hazel had clearly stated the blooming obvious - that there was some "wicked and malicious stuff" within Labour Party ranks - clearly I think referring to the likes of Damien McBride. He was of course found out and drummed out of his employment as a press wrangling impression manager.
When ambushed with this - reduced disingenuously to "wicked and malicious" by Brillo and very disingenuously indeed referring to "some actions of Labour while they were in government" or words to that effect (you can see for yourself above) Hazel Blears clearly could not remember using the phrase at all, particularly given the disingenuous way that the old fart Andrew Neil, "is he still alive?" you ask? well yes madam he is, had put it.
She tap danced her way out with some somethingly incorrect but not too unreasonable suggestion that when she used the terms "wicked and malicious" it was generally about Tory cuts. Hazel then pinned the tag on the personification of Tory wicked maliciousness, you've guessed it, Eric Pickles.
On Wednesday the old tool Andrew Neil played back a tape provided by ePolitix. This was mischieviously edited at the front end, there was no sign of the question she was addressing or of the front end of her first sentence but we can let that pass, but it is Neil who is bang to rights.
He had not put this to Hazel or advised her he would be broadcasting it. And Hazel Blears was clearly referring to "stuff" like McBride's unused Red Rag attack lines, and like the uncomradely briefing and behind the scenes belligerence that was a hardly secret feature of the Blair-Brown years. "Stuff in our party" is what she said and meant. Andrew Neil is a tube.
That the utter sleaze bag and smear merchant Guido Fawkes and other conbloggers and contweeters should get their knickers in a twist over this is just bloody typical of the breed. Scumbag Andrew Neil, "is he still alive?" you ask? well yes doctor he is, put something to Hazel in an utterly dishonest, disreputable and distorted way. Within that context of "government actions" she could not remember using the clause.
No doubt, had Hazel Blears remembered her throwaway sub-clause, actually boosting the benefits of a clean, fresh start under Ed Miliband's New Generation and distancing the bad old days of McBride and Co (and the current ways of Guido Fawkes, Iain Dale et al), she wouldn't have had the slightest compunction in correcting Neil's disreputable crapitude.
Hazel Blears did not lie. She could not remember. She was mistaken in her speculation about how she might have used the clause. Largely due to misdirection from that old rascal Andrew Neil. Whether that was intentional or just pig ignorant and careless we may never know. Perhaps he'll own up? We'll see.
LOL predict that Hazel Blears will be on the Daily Politics today and that Andrew Neil will be well wrong if he does not admit that he ambushed her and put the point to her in a highly misleading and unfair way. The remarks were not about Government actions at all, any more than this time they were about Eric Pickles and his wicked and malicious Tory government, they were about well known internal Labour squabblings, briefings and carve ups.
The correct point of departure here will be that the Tory Government is going for "wicked and malicious" as their core strategy. They are going to try to make the poorest in society pay for things they had no part in causing and let bankers and others continue to profit from them. It is indeed "wicked and malicious" to run a "doom" narrative and claim dishonestly that savage cuts are essential.
In fact Labour's way, measured moves over a decade or so instead of panic and mayhem over four years, was and is the right way. Growth is the answer. Meanwhile the wealthiest should pay a fairer, greater share. Tories either don't or won't get that.
Their ideological programme of destroying and privatising the health service, and our rapidly improving schools system, and public services in general, and dog whistle attacks on the poorest, and indeed screwing employment and investment in both public and private sectors .. that is wicked and malicious.