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Donation differences

Nick Robinson | 13:51 UK time, Thursday, 24 January 2008

There are important differences between the cases of Peter Hain and those of Gordon Brown's deputy, Harriet Harman, and Labour's Scottish leader, Wendy Alexander, who are still awaiting the verdicts of the Electoral Commission.

Harriet HarmanThe most obvious difference is scale. Peter Hain failed to declare over £100,000 whereas Harriet Harman's deputy leadership campaign accepted a much smaller sum, £5000, from a proxy for David Abrahams and Wendy Alexander accepted just £950 from a Jersey-based businessman who was not a "permissible donor".

Hain was regarded within the Electoral Commission as holding the law in contempt when he said he'd not met his obligations because he was too busy being a minister at the time and had left his declarations to his campaign staff.

Harman, in contrast, said she took the money in "good faith" and couldn't have known the original source. If the Commission accept this she will be cleared although she could face criticism for making insufficient checks on donations.

Alexander originally admitted to breaking the law and would, therefore, appear to be in a very similar position to Hain. Indeed the SNP are now saying that, like Hain, she should resign. However, after she studied her campaign paperwork, Labour's Scottish leader changed her story and said she did not knowingly break the law as she had accepted assurances from her campaign that the donation was, in fact, permissible. If the Electoral Commission accepts her version of events then she will not face a police investigation though others might. The Commission's verdict is expected next week.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 02:30 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Alex Brodie, Edinburgh wrote:

Been ordered to limit the damage Nick? Have you or Alexander ever heard the legal principle that "ignorance is no defence"?

  • 2.
  • At 02:40 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Bourke wrote:

I may have jumped but the timing of his jump is interesting. Today could be worse for the government trying to explain why council tax increases since 1997 have increased by 100% whereas inflation as measured by their prefered CPI measure has only increased by less than 30%. In the longer term the latter is more damaging than Peter Hain. Provided he is cleared expect to see him back at the first opportunity as a thank you for preventing damaging negative council tax headlines. Jo Moores dictum lives on!

He may have technically have jumped, but he waited and waited until he had no other option. This has been very poorly handled, Hain has appeared quite arrogant to me

  • 4.
  • At 02:56 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Rob wrote:

Nick, you seem very keen to protect Labour politicians! Are you sure you are not biased?!

  • 5.
  • At 03:01 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Bourke wrote:

He may have jumped but the timing is the most interesting element of this.

Today could have been even worse for the Government had the headlines concentrated on the increases in Council Tax. Since the Government came to power in 1997 Council Tax has increased by over 100% and there has been outrageaous gerrymandering by reducing central government support from the south to the north. The increases, which effect both the north and the south are massively above the CPI (the governemnts preferred measure of inflation) and amount to yet another tax increase on the same day that the Chancellor admits he got it wrong on CGT.

Can things get worse for the Government - I think they will. Will they get worse for the taxpayer - unfortunately this is inevitable.

Bring on a general election

Please Mr. Brown can we have Frank Field back as Work and Pensions minister? The only Labour politician to make any sense about reform of the welfare state.

  • 7.
  • At 03:30 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Andrew Norwood wrote:

No mention of the role of bloggers in this story? Guido will be sad...

  • 8.
  • At 03:38 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Gerry O'Neill wrote:

The Government seems to have learnt the lesson from ultra-President Sarkozy about timing of personal issues in conjunction with other bad news.

Squeaky clean eh?

  • 9.
  • At 03:49 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Euromac, Brussels wrote:

Nick

I fail to see how Wendy Alexander's case substantially differs, apart from being even more clear-cut.

She admitted breaking the law (I fail to see how doing it 'inadvertently' makes any difference), her campaign team covered it up by lying about the source.

There also appears to be clear cut evidence that the cover up - by changing the source of the donor on the documentation submitted to the Electoral Commission - was intentional.

Worse still, Wendy did not have to face a leadership election, she was appointed unopposed, but kept the money raised anyway.

To my amateur eye, it appears the same, with less money but more intent to deceive

  • 10.
  • At 03:54 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Adrian Benjamin wrote:

It is correct that Peter Hain should have resigned, however it with the matter being sent to the Police for a criminal investigation, he had no choice.

If I recall correctly, during the Deputy Leadership campaign he portrayed himself as the candidate of the Left, which seem rather at odds with the financial scale of his campaign.

His response that he was to busy with his Ministerial responsibilities to notice the £100,000+ shortfall in his personnel campaign, was a naive admission. His comment maybe, provides the evidence that the responsibility of holding two Ministerial posts is to much for one person.

  • 11.
  • At 03:58 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Patrick King wrote:

no mention or credit to Guido, Nick ? - no one else followed up on this story - perhaps a hat-tip would be in order ? - Hain deserves what he's got. There is NO honour in politicians anymore - The MSM does NOT keep them honest - they are all far too chummy !

  • 12.
  • At 04:01 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Geraint wrote:

If this had happened in the private sector, then the government and police would have thrown the book at an individual for failing to report monies and therefore potential money laundering issues. I hope that the full investigation is not a whitewash. I am tired of hearing of investigations being launched and then the usual we have learnt lessons - I am sorry but we are not dealing with 5 year olds here, the lessons should be part of the agreement that is signed by MPs when they go into politics.

This government is rotten and expensive. The sooner we have our rights to decide on our prime minister and the whole of parliament again the better.

  • 13.
  • At 04:04 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Thomas wrote:

Well, just as 18th January was apparently the worst day to be on the roads, so 24th January appears to be the worst day to be a cabinet minister - Leon Brittan, Peter Mandelson and now Peter Hain.

I for one am always pleased to see a minister (of whatever affiliation) brought back down to earth.

  • 14.
  • At 04:23 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Euromac, Brussels wrote:

Nick

I fail to see how Wendy Alexander's case substantially differs, apart from being even more clear-cut.

She admitted breaking the law (I fail to see how doing it 'inadvertently' makes any difference), her campaign team covered it up by lying about the source.

There also appears to be clear cut evidence that the cover up - by changing the source of the donor on the documentation submitted to the Electoral Commission - was intentional. To talk about 'just 950 pounds' is a red herring; it was her campaign team - for which she is responsible - who chose the amount to avoid the need for disclosure.

Worse still, Wendy did not have to face a leadership election, she was appointed unopposed, but kept the money raised anyway.

To my amateur eye, it appears the same, with less money but more intent to deceive

  • 15.
  • At 04:25 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Scottish, not British wrote:

Nick,

You miss the point about Ms Alexander completely. The law in respect of donations has been broken not to mention the principals of honesty and integrity - all to lacking in modern day politics. I agree with the first posting it seems like we are being asked to accept Hain as the sacrificial lamb to save Scotland from the SNP hoardes...if its obvious to me that you have changed your tune it must also be obvious to others. It seems the PM is the only one interested in saving her....now why would that be ????

  • 16.
  • At 04:26 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Richard Thomas wrote:

Well, just as 18th January was apparently the worst day to be on the roads, so 24th January appears to be the worst day to be a cabinet minister - Leon Brittan, Peter Mandelson and now Peter Hain.

I for one am always pleased to see a minister (of whatever affiliation) brought back down to earth.

  • 17.
  • At 04:27 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Charles wrote:

Mr Robinson - I cannot agree with you about Ms Alexander. Politicians know very well what the rules are and Labour types have less excuse than the others in that they created the rules after spending years beating up the Tories for being sleazy. I find politicians who cling on despite the evidence and blame everyone else for their own negligence totally unacceptable. Labour is doing itself no end of harm in not simply sacking such people straight away. Being clean in politics requires immediate party action, not delayed backsliding hoping they will get away with it. Labour's failure to sack Ms Alexander, Harman and co shows they don't really care. Sack, suspend, do something but to leave them there in the face of such evidence smells bad.

  • 18.
  • At 04:30 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • DS wrote:

No interviewer has asked how and why Mr Hain's campaign needed over £100,000 - what a total waste of money. I wonder if anyone could give a breakdown of his expenses and what the money was spent on??

  • 19.
  • At 04:41 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Susan Pickin wrote:

What I cannot understand is why his campaign team did not realise and act to report the required information in time.

  • 20.
  • At 04:49 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Derek Louden wrote:

Peter Hain's inactions have rendered him a "has-been" removing him from office. Poor Wendy Alexander could reflect on the remarks of Ken Buchanan the famous Scottish lightweight champion who was once challenged by a disgruntled punter that he was a "has-been". He replied that he'd prefer to be a has-been than a "nivver-wizzer" (a never-was-er).

Peter Hain may be a has-been but Wendy Alexander (a Scottish lightweight, but not a World champion)looks increasingly likely to be remembered as a "nivver-wizzer".

  • 21.
  • At 05:00 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Perhaps Peter Hain's campaign manager, Phil Woolas, sould also resign his ministerial position, considering his key part in all of this?

Can he really continue if Hain cannot?

  • 22.
  • At 05:10 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Sandy wrote:

Well there may be a difference here compared to Wendy Alexander.

Consider the effect that a member of the Electoral Commission's Parliamentary Advisory Group also being an "anonymous" donor to Wendys campaign might have on any investigation in progress ?

  • 23.
  • At 05:12 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • andy williams wrote:

These people have got to understand one very simple thing - If you break the law then you are a criminal and deserve to be publicly treated as such.

These people are not special cases other than they should be punished more severly than 'normal' people to set an example and a standard.

I cannot stomach politicians. The vast bulk seem totally incapable of prioritising their political responsibilities which, from the top, are - People, country, parliament, party in that order, all the time, over everything.

I wonder in the cash-for-honours how many of those questioned by plod said 'no comment' despite GB assuring us that they would co-operate fully.

I actually met Peter Hain whilst he was campaigning on behalf of our local MP here on Anglesey at the last election. One of the most irrelevant politicians I have ever met (and I've met quite a few).

Good riddance to him. Let's get politicians of credibilty and character more to the fore. The likes of Frank Fields, Phil Willis (the LibDem, not the Labour toady Woolas), Nicholas Soames, Albert Owen, those sort.

  • 24.
  • At 05:12 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Charles wrote:

Mr Robinson - I cannot agree with you about Ms Alexander. Politicians know very well what the rules are and Labour types have less excuse than the others in that they created the rules after spending years beating up the Tories for being sleazy. I find politicians who cling on despite the evidence and blame everyone else for their own negligence totally unacceptable.

  • 25.
  • At 05:22 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Robin wrote:

Goodbye Wendy Alexander methinks

  • 26.
  • At 05:29 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Paul Anderson wrote:

Trying to stop the domino effect Nick?

  • 27.
  • At 05:34 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • ken wrote:

As this was an internal Labour Party election, surely it should have been treated as an internal party matter and left to the Labour Party to regulate. Why drag the law into it?

I used to be a great admirer of Peter Hain, especially in his fight against Apartheid South Africa, but once he became a backer of the war against Iraq, I say "Good riddence!".

  • 29.
  • At 05:52 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Martin W wrote:

Hmm, guess what it knocked off todays news top spot?

Proposals to extend detention under anti terror laws to 42 days.

How very convenient...

  • 30.
  • At 06:00 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • brian wrote:

Nice to see Labour hoist by its own petard.... after all, they passed these idiotic laws in the first place.

Nick, I notice you did not touch on one crucial point - Brown did not dare sack Hain or else Alexander and Harmin would have to go as well.

That is why Hain had to resign and I would expect that it had been made quite plain to him by Gordon

-------------
Note to "Rob" @ 2.56pm
I cannot see Nick being biased in favour of New Labour. According to Wikipedia he spent 1986 as national chairman of the Young Conservatives.


-------------
Note to Nick
In the last few weeks, posting comments on this blog seems to be very haphazard - ok sometimes and "Error 502 - service not available - a server error has occurred". the rest of the time. Please get it fixed.

  • 31.
  • At 06:08 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Ewan wauchope wrote:

I must agree with others about credit to Guido.

Hain says he resigned because the Electoral commission refered his case to the police. Both Harman and Alexander had their actions refered to the police yet you say they are different and seam to imply that they should remain in office.

Is that what it said in your Labour briefing or do you really believe that garbage?

  • 32.
  • At 06:10 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • John Constable wrote:

I don't really care what happens with Wendy Alexander in Scotland because as far as I'm concerned, it is just an adjacent country to England, with its own legal system.

It is daily becoming more and more of an anomaly that England, Scotland and Wales are still notionally 'joined' in a union.

English people can see that but the politicians choose to ignore the writing on the proverbial wall.

  • 33.
  • At 06:27 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Denise wrote:

Well, Nick, I wonder who you talked to between 12.39 and 1.51 ?

  • 34.
  • At 06:46 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Malcolm wrote:

One question that I have not seen put is how was the money that MP Hains raised(£100,000) spent...and this also indicates that it is not the amount of money that goverment or anyone spends on any area its how effective it is
in delivering a positive responce.

  • 35.
  • At 09:37 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Louise wrote:

Having met Hain on two occasions, once on the Labour backbenches and once in office as Welsh Secretary in 2004, I am surprised at him and saddened by this turn of events. If anyone added a bit of weight to the cabinet it was him. Sadly the reason why he has not gone earlier is that the Tories are up to their neck in it too - one to the tune of £500,000 - and any attempts by them to make Brown and Hain look foolish (as Howard did to Blair over the Blunkett fiascos - twice in one twelve-month period) would rebound on them fivefold.

The problem is that this is the apogee of a political system which is in drastic need of some heavyweight talent (and I thought Brown would represent a return to statesmanship after Blair) and probity in office; reading Thatcher's biographies you get a sense that this lot don't know what to do and can't do it, the exact reverse of her. I can think of alternative candidates for Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, but I can only count them on one hand - two in parliament and one the prospective parliamentary candidate for Maidstone and the Weald.

It is the media who have propped up this situation because it gives them more control, but looking at America, where the primary voters overturned the media's complacent expectations, how long before we get some good government, good opposition, and an election to be able to sort it out once and for all?

  • 36.
  • At 10:11 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Nico wrote:

Finally. Time for George Osbourne to follow suit.

  • 37.
  • At 10:29 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Munro Ross wrote:

Wendy Alexander has admitted to breaking the law and also that she sent a personal letter of thanks for the donation to Mr Green who was not entitled to donate.This letter was publisedh in the Scottish press. She cannot use the ignorance of the law defence as you and i would not be able to if charged with anything - from speeding upwards.

Also what has Labour done with the money the Electoral Commission gave all parties to ensure they knew the rules. Have they used this for campaigning?

Why when she was unopposed did she need doantions to fund a campaign anyway?

  • 38.
  • At 10:39 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Huw Chambers wrote:

There's been a lot of talk about where Hain's money came from (those with a permanent tan like his do not usually need donations) , but where on earth has this vast amount of money gone ? . It cannot be a good thing for the labour party that the 5th placed candidate (out of 6) managed to pour money into an unknown drain. Forgive my ignorance, but who is Guido ? ( I recognize the allusion )

  • 39.
  • At 10:51 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • John Lovelady wrote:

So Hain jumps, the other two, Harman & Alexander stay put. Surely it is a matter of degree it has been argued, I don't think so, you cannot break the law "a litlle bit". If Peter had the guts to fall on his sword, the other two should do the same.

  • 40.
  • At 11:00 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • JB, Scots Borders wrote:

Wendy Alexander sent a personal letter of thanks for the £950 (£50 below the level which would have triggered declaration - which stinks BTW) to an address in the CHANNEL ISLANDS!!!

How on earth can she possibly say she knew nothing/was misinformed/any other implausible excuse ?

If she gets away with this the EC may just as well shut up shop.

  • 41.
  • At 11:47 PM on 24 Jan 2008,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

Nick,


your posting strongly suggests that you are being influenced by Labour spinmeisters. You use exactly the same excuse for criminality as Michael White in the Guardian. Obviously the text message from Labour's spin controllers was too peremptory to allow individualism in reports. Following the same party line, Michael likened Hain's 100,000 to driving at 278 and Harmon's 5,000 to driving at 78 to suggest that Harmon should be let off. However the PPERA does not consider this as a defence. All three of them have violated PPERA.

The only defence they can use, which is set out in PPERA, Schedule 7, Section 12 (3) - "Where a person is charged with an offence under this paragraph, it shall be a defence to prove that he took all reasonable steps, and exercised all due diligence"

"good faith" certainly doesn't meet this defence, and neither does an admission to breaking the law.

  • 42.
  • At 07:30 AM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • andrew kirkham wrote:

Wendy Alexander will probably get away with it but frankly ignorance / inadvertance is no justification when you break the law.

Again it amuses me that no "political " commentator has acknowledged how important the blogosphere was in Hain's case. Congrats to guido fawkes.

  • 43.
  • At 01:53 PM on 25 Jan 2008,
  • David Brede wrote:

Isn't time Dave Cameron stopped dithering and told George Osborne to step down whilst is half million of contributions to his office gets sorted out?

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