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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hain struggles for closure

What is Peter Hain up to? Five weeks after it first came to light that he had failed to register a £5,000 deputy leadership campaign donation, due to an "administrative error", the issue has not been resolved and in fact is beginning to grow out of his control.

Political guru, Steve Morgan, who was called in to manage the Hain Deputy Leadership bid halfway through, told Radio Wales this morning that he found the campaign to be in a state of 'chaos'. He said that every donation that crossed his desk up to when he closed the office at the beginning of June had been sent onto the Electoral Commission.

However, today's Guardian reports that Mr. Hain has personally decided to audit the accounts after discovering that no donations had been declared after May 4 last year - six weeks before the result was announced.

They say that such is the scale of the under-reporting that some political sources believe Hain's political future rests on his being able to show that he is the innocent victim of chaos within his election organisation, and that there has been no deliberate attempt to conceal the sources of the donations. That fits in very well with the way that Steve Morgan is characterising the campaign team.

The Guardian go on to say that Mr. Hain had been urged by close colleagues to make a full disclosure before Christmas, reflecting tensions within the team over the conduct of the campaign:

The commission has told the Guardian that it intends to investigate the failure to declare the money and could impose a fine on Hain for making an inaccurate declaration of the donations at the end of July, or for late reporting of the money. Under electoral law he is personally responsible for submitting correct accounts - unlike in parliamentary elections, where the agent is the responsible figure.

Hain volunteered that he had made omissions in his declared donations to the Electoral Commission in the wake of the David Abrahams donor scandal last month. Although he did not take any money from any of the proxies for Abrahams, he discovered that he had not declared one £5,000 donation from Jon Mendelsohn, now Gordon Brown's chief fundraiser.

On December 3 he reported a wider failure to the commission, but did not disclose either the names of all the donors or the sums involved.

However, the Guardian understands that the scale of undisclosed donations runs to tens of thousands of pounds, and that Hain far outspent his rivals during the course of the deputy leadership contest.

His published donations already show that he spent £82,000 on his campaign, but it is likely that the total is well in excess of £100,000 - more than double the amount raised by the successful candidate, Harriet Harman.

It is understood that most of the undeclared donations are from City or business people but last night it was revealed that a £10,000 donation in cash and kind from the GMB union, whose members voted to support his campaign, was also not made public. This is in addition to a £5,000 undeclared donation from Mendelsohn, and £1,300 from a fundraising dinner in Cardiff.

These alone take his total donations to £98,300. Sources say that donations from City and business will take the figure much higher.

Mr. Hain has let it be known that he will be making a full declaration by the middle of January. He will need to ensure that it is comprehensive otherwise things may well get difficult. His Tory shadow, Chris Grayling was already asking this morning how the Secretary of State for Works, Pensions and Wales can run two Government departments when he could not manage his own Deputy Leadership campaign. Such questions may well get more persistent if the issue is not killed off quickly.
Somehow (correct me if I'm wrong) I cannot envisage Peter Hain to be an innocent victim.
Or does he have so many jobs and responsibilities he cannot cope with them all?
I suggest turning the Wales Office into a Consulate.
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