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Monday, January 23, 2012

Two referendums and an autobiography

For many of us Peter Hain is the marmite in Welsh politics. You either love him or loathe him, but there has never been any doubt about his competence as a Minister, a politician and a campaigner.

Newport West MP, Paul Flynn described him as one of politics 'shapeshifters' and that is certainly borne out in the extracts I have read so far from his autobiography. Having said that I am not yet convinced that I actually want to read or buy the book. Maybe that will come later.

Today we learn that there was clear hostility from some Labour Cabinet Ministers to giving the Welsh Assembly law-making powers, even the watered down version in the 2006 Government of Wales Act. Mr. Hain also reveals that Tony Blair and his team never gave Wales "proper respect and attention".

The BBC report on Hain's view that a reshuffle reducing the Welsh job to a part-time cabinet role was "a spectacular bodge":

The Neath MP writes in Outside In that the 2003 shake-up appeared to have been "cobbled together at the last minute".

The Wales Office was subsumed into what was the Department for Constitutional Affairs (now the Ministry of Justice).

Even Mr Blair appeared unsure whether the Welsh secretary would still answer Welsh questions in the Commons.

Mr Hain said: "At one point it appeared that the secretary of state's post had been abolished, that Wales was being summarily transferred into a department under an unelected peer, Lord Falconer." Mr Hain said the Wales Office was in turmoil, with staff learning about the change via TV.

"For a government supposedly excellent at communicating, this was another example of abject failure - especially if, as later transpired, it had been considered over a period rather than cobbled together at the last minute.

"It was further evidence of Tony Blair and his team never really giving Wales proper respect and attention, contrary to Scotland where the secretary of state's role was pretty minimal because all primary legislation had gone to the Scottish parliament.

Mr Hain reveals how plans to give the Welsh assembly more powers were almost scuppered by cabinet colleagues, including the then deputy prime minister, John Prescott:

According to Mr Hain, Mr Prescott thought the English regions were being discriminated against and was "resentful" about the idea of Wales acquiring full law-making powers.

Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, told a cabinet meeting that he had been struck by the Welsh government's "truly appalling" performance on hospital waiting times and it would be "ridiculous to start giving them more powers".

According to Mr Hain, the then leader of the Commons, Geoff Hoon, responsible for the government's legislative timetable, suggested deferring or shortening the Government of Wales Bill - a suggestion thwarted only by Tony Blair's intervention.

The Guardian has a story about another referendum. They reveal how Tony Blair and his aides sanctioned a secret group inside Labour, including the-then Europe minister, Peter Hain, to prepare the ground for a euro referendum during his second term in office. They say that the group was secret partly to avoid Gordon Brown's disapproval.

They add that the planning was aborted after Gordon Brown declared the UK economy was not ready to join the euro due to insufficient convergence between the two economies.
I remember Hain when he was a Young Liberal. We regarded his switch to Labour as self-serving not principled. YLs published an open letter regretting his departure and listing all the principles he had stood for but would now have to abandon. So yes, shapeshifter sounds right.
Blair who we are told was a powerful chap and Hain and they were scared of Brown a bumbling New labour old labour god know what I can call him without insult something or some one, which shows you how Poor Blair was. Wilson would have sacked Brown ages before so would most other leader, show how poor labour has become. I wonder what brown had on Blair it must be something really good
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