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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all