Starting gun fired on leadership contest
Deliberate, calculated and with intent.
That is the only possible interpretation of Hazel Blears' decision to resign today just before Prime Minister's Questions and on the eve of the last big electoral test ahead of the general election.
The Communities Secretary Blears has issued a statement in which she makes no mention of Gordon Brown's leadership. That will come though once the polls have closed.
A year ago she was one of five cabinet ministers who discussed resigning to force Brown out but never followed through. Today there is no sign that her resignation is part of an organised plot.
She decided to resign last night after meeting the prime minister yesterday afternoon in Downing Street.
At the meeting, I'm told, she "ventilated her anger" at the way he had publicly described her expenses claims as "totally unacceptable". They did not, however discuss whether she would resign from Cabinet or be moved in a re-shuffle.
Last night after the meeting she consulted allies and friends and drafted her letter of resignation. This morning she asked to see the prime minister again and informed him of her decision. I am told that the issue of his continued leadership was not discussed.
She has, though, now fired the starting gun on a leadership contest whose outcome is unknowable.