by Gary J
Sat Jan 12th, 2008 at 06:15:52 PM EST
The British, during the twentieth century, prided themselves on having one of the cleanest and least corrupt political systems in the world.
Clement Attlee (Labour Prime Minister 1945-51), reacted very firmly in 1948, when one of his ministers was accused of influence peddling at the Board of Trade (the then government department which dealt with commerce and industry). John Belcher, the junior minister involved, was required to resign from the government whilst the allegations were investigated.
A tribunal of inquiry (the Lynskey Tribunal on Bribery of Ministers of the Crown) was appointed, not as a means of whitewashing things but as a determined investigation. After it reported in 1949, John Belcher resigned his seat in Parliament.
Now we have a modern example of possible wrongdoing, by a minister in office. One Peter Hain, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (and Wales), is in trouble because of what he did to fund his recent campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.
In addition to the interesting question of why he needed to raise more than £100,000 to finish fifth in an internal election, where the other candidates seem to have raised about a fifth as much, Hain has explained he was too busy with his day job to realise that this money needed to be publicly declared. After all it was just a legal requirement, under a law the Labour government itself had passed.
As added irony the money seems to have come mostly from a South African diamond dealer (who is alleged to be interested in obtaining British government contracts), with past links to the apartheid era National Party government. Hain first came to public notice as an anti-apartheid campaigner.
An extract from the Wikipedia article on Peter Hain gives more details and some sources for information about the rapidly growing scandal.
On 12th September 2006, he announced his [[Labour Party (UK) deputy leadership election, 2007|candidacy]] for the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. In January 2007, Hain gave an interview to the ''[[New Statesman]]'' in which he made his pitch for the Deputy Leadership and referred to the [[George W. Bush administration|Bush administration]] as "the most right-wing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory" and argued that "the neo-con agenda for America has been rejected by the people and I hope that will be the case for the future".<ref>[[Martin Bright]] and [[John Kampfner]], Deputy leader interviews: Peter Hain, ''[[New Statesman]]'', 22 January 2007, accessed 18 January 2007</ref> However, Hain was eliminated in the second round of the Deputy Leadership election, coming fifth, with [[Harriet Harman]] being the successful candidate.<ref>Harman elected as Deputy Leader Times Online
The "Guardian" newspaper, on 10/1/2008, noted that Hain was being accused of not reporting £100,000 in contributions. It later emerged that a large part of these funds were channeled through a non-operating think tank the [[Progressive Policies Forum]].<ref>Is Hain's 'think tank' for real?, 11 Jan 2008, Channel 4 news</ref> A separate £82,000 was reported. On the 12th of January Peter Hain released a statement saying that being busy with his government jobs it was simply forgotten about, and said it was absurd to think any misconduct took place, and that he would pay back £25,000 of the money.