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Friday, November 30, 2007

Coming clean

Last night's news that Peter Hain had failed to register a £5,000 deputy leadership campaign donation, due to an "administrative error" was a bit of a shock, but unlike other bloggers I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. A mistake was made, he has owned up to it. Let us move on.

In many ways, Mr. Hain's confession is a side show to the main action. Interesting as it is that the undeclared loan came from Labour fundraiser, Jon Mendelsohn months before he started to work for the party, there is no suggestion that it was not Mr. Mendelsohn's money nor that he was acting for anybody else. From what I know of Peter Hain, he would not countenance any sort of subterfuge. He has always set a very high standard in the way that he conducts himself in public life and he expects a similarly high standard from those who work with him and for him.

What is getting interesting is the way that the Harriet Harman donation scandal is developing. Her aides have now pointed the finger at Gordon Brown's leadership election campaign coordinator as the person who suggested that they ask Janet Kidd for a donation to her campaign. This was despite the fact that Gordon Brown's campaign had rejected a cheque from Janet Kidd.

By implicating the Prime Minister's aides in this way Ms Harman's team have linked her fate to his. It is now so much harder to sack her, though she is by no means, fireproof. The BBC Newsnight claim that Ms. Harman's Deputy Leadership campaign took out a series of loans that were not declared to the Electoral Commission must raise further doubts about her position at the heart of government.

Newport West MP, Paul Flynn, conducted a robust defence of his party on Good Morning Wales a few moments ago, in which he argued that these were not police matters. He listed a whole string of indiscretions by other parties (replicated on his blog) and generally avoided answering any direct questions on the whole affair. On his blog Paul admits to being "irritated, bewildered and ashamed that by our stupidity not our greed, we have embarrassed ourselves." Alas, he did not go so far on the radio.

Judging by the comments of listeners Mr. Flynn did not do Labour any favours. He came across as partisan and evasive. Anybody would have thought that the Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000 did not apply to Labour, even though it was their legislation. The point is, you cannot make the misreporting of political donations a criminal offence, and then argue that these are political battles that should not be referred to the Police as Paul Flynn is doing. An Act of Parliament that was introduced to clean up politics is now being used as a political weapon to beat opponents over the head with. It does not bode well for the future.
Paul Flynn did the same thing in Welsh on Radio Cymru - and the programme presenter let him get away with it. Consolation is that it only makes Labour seem even more underhand!
Interesting that the Peter Hain donation story made it into the online edition of the Evening Post, but not the regular printed newspaper delivered in Neath.
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