A passionate man pays the price of a chaotic campaign

When Peter Hain began his campaign for Labour's deputy leadership, it felt like an anti-apartheid rally. But there was a good reason: his South African parents campaigned against apartheid, and they were the first couple to be "banned persons". As a child, his house was raided by police, and his father wasn't allowed to watch him play cricket.

It was on cricket pitches that Mr Hain achieved notoriety after his family fled South Africa when he was 16. He disrupted cricket and rugby tours of 1969 and 1970 by the all-white South African teams and became president of the Young Liberals. He was acquitted of a bank robbery, convinced he was framed by the South African security services.

Last year's glitzy campaign launch was impressive on the day but sowed the seeds of Mr Hain's downfall. He had been planning his bid for years, and had pressed the flesh at hundreds of Labour and trade union meetings. And he was determined that no expense should be spared.

At first, Mr Hain had grounds for hope. Several big unions had promised support. But his campaign never really took off. His appeal to left-of-centre opinion was eclipsed by the backbencher Jon Cruddas, who won strong union backing.

Mr Hain decided to beef up his campaign, turning to Steve Morgan, a lobbyist. His previous chief, his special adviser Phil Taylor, resigned. As Mr Hain now concedes, donations received during Mr Taylor's time were registered with the Electoral Commission within the required 30 days. After he left, they were not.

Despite outspending his rivals, Mr Hain came fifth out of six runners. To make matters worse, he ended the contest heavily in debt after Mr Morgan ran a media blitz. The hat was passed round and £103,000 was raised, half channelled through a previously unknown think-tank, the Progressive Policies Forum. Mr Hain has still not explained why. He will now to have to do so to the Metropolitan Police.

He knew his colourful career was hanging by a thread after he revealed the £103,000 figure, taking his total amount to £185,000. The scale of the late declarations, and his claim that he was too busy as a minister to keep track of them, did not endear him to the commission. He knew all along he would have to resign if his case was referred to the police, and did so immediately yesterday.

As he hung on, there was no great groundswell of support for him among Labour MPs and some cabinet colleagues did not look him in the eye when he sat on the front bench.

Some Labour MPs never forgot that he was once a Liberal. Others saw him as too ambitious, mocking the perma-tan of "Hain the Pain". He was also seen as a boat-rocker who pursued an Old Labour agenda of higher taxes on the rich while secretary of the Tribune group and later as a minister, incurring the wrath of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.

To others, he was a breath of fresh air. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, saying politicians should not become "automatons". A minister since 1997, the MP for Neath joined the Cabinet in 2002 as Welsh Secretary. His finest hour came as Northern Ireland Secretary, where he played a pivotal role in restoring self-government through a power-sharing executive.

Mr Hain had a Tiggerish quality to him, bouncing back from the embarrassment of the deputy leadership to land a serious job at Work and Pensions, the biggest spending department with a budget of £130bn.

When I interviewed him last month, it was clear he was revelling in the job. He was passionate about welfare-to-work, even though it involved "tough love" measures designed to force claimants, including the sick and disabled, back to work. He saw it as an anti-poverty, full-employment agenda.

He knew a huge cloud still hung over his head because of his chaotic campaign. Mr Brown hopes that Mr Hain will play a role in public life, and we haven't seen the last of him.The rebel will find new causes. But at 57, he is unlikely to return to the Cabinet.

Read Andrew Grice on the day's issues at: independent.co.uk/todayinpolitics

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment