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Friday, January 23, 2009

The ghost of past campaigns

Peter Hain will no doubt hope that his apology to the House of Commons for breaching its standards through his non-declaration of more than £100,000 of campaign donations will be the end of the matter. However, his former campaign manager seems determined to ensure that the affair continues for some time to come.

One of the reasons for this is that despite his apology, Mr. Hain does not appear to have fully accepted responsibility for what happened. In his letter to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner he says:

“I have never been given any explanation as to why the procedure in the campaign which had previously been well established and followed to the letter for five months completely broke down from late May 2007.”

He adds: “I have identified, with the benefit of hindsight, two particular factors which I believe were significant... The first was the unexpected and abrupt departure of Mr Taylor. I now believe the resulting disruption was significant.”

This attempt to deflect part of the blame has caused his campaign director Steve Morgan to retaliate. He issued a statement yesterday disputing Hain's version of events:

“I was never made aware that Peter had not declared the... £100,000 pounds that he personally raised to either the Electoral Commission or Parliament.

“My main disagreement with Peter was, and remains, the fact that he was not prepared to pay the Labour Party the full money owed to them on those donations under the rules of the Leadership contest.

“It is unfortunate that I personally was not given the opportunity to provide the Committee with both oral evidence and documents relating to the campaign itself. I will of course now be writing direct to the Standards Commissioner John Lyon clarifying the timeline of campaign events and the role of those involved.”

Peter Hain also seeks absolution on the grounds that it was he himself who made the donation errors public, and apologised, before any complaint was made to the Standards Commissioner. That must be a mitigating factor but it is not the whole story.

It is true that the former Secretary of State for Wales put together a comprehensive report of the errors of omission in his declaration and said that he was sorry for not having complied with the rules to which he is subject as an MP, but he only did so after others, notably the Guido Fawkes website, started to ask questions as to his accounts and drew his attention to the problems that lay therein.

I have repeatedly asserted that Mr. Hain is an honourable man whose honesty and integrity is not in doubt and I have not changed that opinion, nor is there anything in this latest development that might cause me to revise my view. However, I believe that he was naive and complacent in the way that he administered his deputy leadership campaign and he is paying the price for that now.

Unfortunately, whilst Steve Morgan feels the need to continue to put his version of events so as to defend his own reputation, Mr. Hain will not be able to completely shake off this affair and that could cast a shadow over any role that the Prime Minister now wishes to offer him.
Very interesting post, and I was particularly intrigued by Steve Morgan's quote. You see it is open to anyone to submit evidence to a select committee if they so wish.

Mr Morgan might think that he can pull the wool over the eyes of a few journalists, but he certainly won't get away with that one with anyone who knows anything about the way in which select committees do their work.
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