Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ambition undoes Peter Hain

The news that Peter Hain has quit the Cabinet, after his deputy leader campaign donations are referred to the Met Police, should give pause to those who place personal ambition over concerns about influence-peddling.

It also means that politicians should take more care over the choice of people to run their administrations.

There did seem to have been a trend towards US-style big money campaigns in British politics. Nick Clegg's and Chris Huhne's combined spending of over £160,000 on the recent leadership campaign may be less than US equivalents, but must be well over what was considered seemly for previous Liberal and Liberal Democrat contests. (It should be added that there is no whiff of impropriety over the donations to either the Clegg or Huhne campaigns.)

Two immediate questions come to mind as a result of today's news: who is going to be the new Welsh Secretary?; and will Mr Hain's resignation be the first domino in a sequence of leading Labour figures whose careers have been threatened by allegations of sleaze?

17:30The new Welsh Secretary will be Paul Murphy, MP for Torfaen, who has filled the post before. Although he is said to be not totally enthusiastic about the Government of Wales Act, he was the unsung hero of the talks in Northern Ireland leading to the Good Friday Agreement. His diplomatic skills will be much needed at Gwydr House.

Frank Little
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