Friday, January 11, 2008

Hain's time has been and gone

I have, in the past, been a great admirer of Peter Hain. Up to about 2002/3 he was a strong progressive voice within government who was occasionally given licence to challenge the orthodoxy, as when, for instance, he advocated a higher top rate of tax.

There is a plausible counterfactual argument for saying that, had he resigned with his old ally Robin Cook over the Iraq War in 2003, as his former admirers on the left would have expected him to, he could conceivably have mounted a successful challenge to Gordon Brown in 2007, standing as an experienced former minister on an anti-war ticket.

But it is clear that at some point around that time, Hain lost his balls. He failed to speak out against a war he must in his heart of hearts have opposed, and gradually, his left-field contributions to government policy-making dried up.

Never having been entirely trusted by the right and with his credibility on the left now badly compromised, it did not surprise me in the least that he performed so poorly in last year's deputy leadership election, when he found his whole USP had been successfully purloined by Jon Cruddas.

For me, that is what is so tragi-comic about Hain's current predicament - the fact that he spent £200,000 on a campaign which ended in near-humiliation for a man who once entertained serious aspirations to, if not the premiership, then certainly the Foreign Office.

Since then, he has gone on to win one small but important victory as Work and Pensions Secretary, overcoming Treasury objections to secure a £725m rescue package for 125,000 workers who lost pension rights when their employers went bust or wound up their schemes.

But even had the row over his campaign donations not occurred, I think it likely that he would have left the Cabinet at the next reshuffle, and hence I cannot help but think his time at the top of British politics is now drawing naturally to a close.

Who knows - if it meant Gordon could bring in Alan Milburn as Work and Pensions Secretary and stage a public rapprochement with the Blairites, then this is one crisis that the government might even be able to turn to its advantage.

  • Cross posted at Liberal Conspiracy

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    Ted Foan said...

    Yep, Hain's time has been and gone a long time ago!

    How you can think he's ever had any credibility is beyond me. He's an awful man and we should be rid of him as quickly as possible. As for Milburn, the, bottom, of, scraping, barrel and the are words that spring to mind.

    Two busted flushes to add to Brown's house of cards. Time to fold that bad hand, Paul, I think.

    Hopi Sen said...

    Paul- very interesting post- On your suggestion on Milburn, interested as to why (given your views on Blair) you seem to be quite sympathetic to Milburn entering Cabinet.

    Not that I disagree with you, but it's a surprising view, and I wanted to know more.

    Paul Linford said...


    Milburn has impressed me with his ability to think outside the box, and I think it is too easy to dismiss this thinking as "Blairism." I don't recall Blair ever being that interested in social mobility, for instance. Indeed some of what Milburn has said/written about that subject coudl be read as an implicit criticism of New Labour's failure to address the problem in its earlier years.

    More generally I think Milburn is still one of the best communicators on the Labour side and that his presence would strengthen the government. I also think it would help counter some of Gordon's perceived negatives if such a prominent Blairite were seen to be working closely with him.

    This is not the first time I have said this by the way - I've argued the case for a Milburn comeback in two recent Journal columns but perhaps you don't read these any more ;-)

    Hopi Sen said...

    I did read them, but I was thoroughly confused!

    I wasn't sure you were advocating Milburn's return purely as a tactical rapprochement style thing or because you actually liked Milburns thinking (As he's plus blairiste que blair, the idea of you support for that sent my head into a spin...)

    Anonymous said...

    Why does everyone think Guido Fawkes AKA Paul Staines is a neutral. Guido Fawkes is an extreme right winger.

    His recent castigation of anti racist campaigner Mr Hain is a sign of what he hates. Hain sacrificed his security against a brutal state to fight for democracy for blacks in south Africa. Fawkes despises him for that.

    He joined the Young Conservatives whilst at University.

    Here is the real facts about Fawkes

    Having joined the Federation of Conservative Students, he described his politics as "Thatcher on drugs".

    Staines worked as 'foreign policy analyst' for the extreme right wing Committee for a Free Britain, a right wing Conservative pressure group, alongside David Hart. Staines acted as editor of 'British Briefing' a long standing publication that sought to "smear Labour MPs and left leaning lawyers and writers".

    He does the same now but claims he is neutral. Funny how he nevers insults the tories bosses infact seems to let them of the hook. I am sure you can see he is no neutral. He is no neutral but wait the later points are even worse. .

    Staines relates of his work with the Committee: in the book

    (1998). Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House, 2nd edition, London: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 1-85242-604-7. —

    "I was lobbying at the Council of Europe and at Parliament; I was over in Washington, in Jo'burg, in South America. It was 'let's get guns for the Contras', that sort of stuff. I was enjoying it immensely, I got to go with these guys and fire off AK-47s. I always like to go where the action is, and for that period in the Reagan/Thatcher days, it was great fun, it was all expenses paid and I got to see the world. I used to think that World Briefing was a bit funny. The only scary thing about those publications was the mailing list - people like George Bush - and the fact that Hart would talk to the head of British Intelligence for an hour. I used to think it was us having a laugh, putting some loony right-wing sell in, and that somebody somewhere was taking it seriously. You've got to understand that we had a sense of humor about this."

    The CFB invited Adolfo Calero, the Nicaraguan Contra leader, to visit the UK.

    What kinf of sickoe works with the contras and supplies gunsot them.

    In a November 1984 report the Sandinista government alleged since 1981 the Contras had assassinated 910 state officials; attacked nearly 100 civilian communities; caused the displacement of over 150,000 people from their homes and farms; and damaged or destroyed bridges, port facilities, granaries, water and oil deposits, electrical power stations, telephone lines, saw mills, health centers, schools and dams.

    A Sandinista militiaman interviewed by The Guardian stated Contra rebels committed these atrocities against Sandinista prisoners after a battle at a Sandinista rural outpost:

    Rosa had her breasts cut off. Then they cut into her chest and took out her heart. The men had their arms broken, their testicles cut off. They were killed by slitting their throats and pulling the tongue out through the slit. Fawkes must be so proud. So think of that when you read his blog.

    What kind of sickoe thinks it is fun to support sick creeps like the contras.

    The CFB launched a number of policy campaigns and initiatives during 1988. It also supported the Community Charge (Poll Tax).

    In time for the October 1988 Conservative Party Conference, the CFB published a British Foreign Policy - The Case for Reform, featuring a photo on the front cover of Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe giving the clenched fist salute at a meeting in southern Africa. In the pamphlet's conclusion it stated "The Foreign Office is one of the last of the great institutions to escape the refreshing breath of Thatcherism." Howe maintained he had not been giving a black power salute.

    So now we see why fawkes despises hain. Re,ber he was a foreign policy analyst.. ..