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Hain the Pain takes the strain

The resignation of Peter Hain, the only cabinet minister in history to have been charged with bank robbery (remember, Gordon Brown was accused of breaking the banks), deprives Ed Miliband’s shadow team of one of its quicker thinkers. Little fazes the anti-apartheid campaigner since spooks in South Africa’s BOSS squad tried to fit up “Hain the Pain” for a Barclays raid in London in the 1970s. The MP has the all-year, pop-star tan but is no Tom Jones. Realising that he alone was unable to sing in Welsh
at a karaoke evening in West Glamorgan, he saved his skin by chanting the local rugby refrain “Neath! Neath! Neath!” into the microphone. The tactic worked a treat and his blushes were spared.

In the lift of a TV studio, your correspondent bumped into Nick Clegg. The Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM looked knackered and pasty-faced, the weight on his shoulders of a shambolic Con-Dem coalition appearing to have shrunk in size a politico who’d walked tall in the wilderness. Clegg’s face lit up like a little child’s on hearing he’d bump into Pudsey the dancing dog. The glow disappeared as fast as it had come when I added he also risked meeting Brian Paddick, a former copper – and the party’s London mayoral candidate who finished fourth behind the Greens – who’d like to become Lord Paddick of Dock Green.

Guests on John Pienaar’s Sunday-evening show on Radio 5 Live included Philip Hammond, the assertive Defence Secretary, who considers attack the best form of defence. Tory high command ordered the cabinet minister over the top in an offensive to reclaim lost ground in the war of the Queen’s Speech. The battle-weary Corporal Hammond had clearly endured a demanding day, and failed to recognise himself on a TV in a corner of the studio. It took him a few moments to recall the interview. Perhaps he was confused by a change of clothes, having replaced his TV suit with country casuals that could’ve come straight from the pages of a Boden catalogue.

Lobby hacks are revolting over a plan to turn political reporting into a TV documentary dubbed The Only Way Is Westminster and so the cameras are unlikely to roll in the Press Gallery. Journos, particularly those toiling in print, were alert enough to suspect the BBC wouldn’t portray them as courageous souls battling the spin doctors to bring people the truth, but rather present a picture of spoon-fed captives of
the main parties. A counter-suggestion – record prearranged interviews in Moncrieff’s, that rare example of licensed premises named after a drinker-turned-teetotaller, any questions posed over a fizzy water or Diet Coke – is unlikely to make riveting TV. Which, presumably, is why it was proposed.

Ed Miliband has sidelined the mathematical ratio of 99 per cent:1 per cent when accusing David Cameron of favouring a rich few over the many. An apparatchik in the Labour leader’s politburo whispered that the division sounded “too Marxist”, a complaint the son of the Marxist thinker Ralph Miliband is anxious to avoid.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 21 May 2012 issue of the New Statesman, European crisis