Thursday, January 24, 2008

Peter Hain resigns at last

Peter Hain has resigned. This is not shock news, what is a shock is that up until today he was still in office. The man failed to declare over £100,000 in donations to his campaign for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party which were routed via a fake think tank that seems to have served no other purpose, and which therefore suggests a degree of premeditation at least. His defence was pressure of work, or as Gordon Brown put it ‘incompetence’, neither of which would be allowed by any judge in the land as a reason for breaking the law. Sill, he clung on to office, despite little or no support from within the Labour Party, never mind from anyone else. Brown, typically, couldn’t decide to sack him, so he limped on until today when the Electoral Commission’s decision to refer the matter to the police finally convinced him that the game was up.

The declaration of donations and the associated administration has become something of a stick used by politicians to beat each other, but the law has a serious purpose. Without transparency on where a politician, and an officeholder in particular, obtains the funds for political purposes then there is always the danger that a decision can be taken to favour a party for reasons other than the public good. More than £100k from anonymous donors hidden behind a front organisation would have meant that there were people to whom Hain was beholden unbeknownst to anyone but Hain and his funders. This is not a technical breach and he should never have made such an arrangement and should have been turfed from office as soon as the scheme was uncovered.

A criminal investigation could be bloody, especially as the police are so keen on Labour at the moment.

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