A Hain in the neck

As Peter Hain's agony continues, bloggers scramble to uncover further political funding scandals

Following a proud week for the NS, as Derek Pasquill was cleared of breaching the Official Secrets Act, messages of congratulations were posted at Harry’s Place. But the case leads Spyblog to query: “What other politically embarrassing revelations are [the government] keeping secret from the British public?”

While, Obsolete believes the case highlights the injustice of last year’s leaked al-Jazeera memo trial.

In case you’ve missed Peter Hain’s week from Hell, Mark Pack supplies an overview.

Alex Hilton at Labourhome makes a case for the Labour Party to learn from the funding scandals and puts forward a list of eight suggestions for the party to adopt if it is to avoid getting into similar scrapes.

Guido Fawkes suggests the blame goes right to the top. Having received donations totalling £215,705, Gordon Brown must - under Labour Party rules - pay 15% (or £32,335) into central party funds. This he hasn’t yet done, according to the Electoral Commission. Fawkes states this is why Brown has offered his support to Hain, Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander.

The accusations against Brown mounted. Dizzy Thinks believes he has stumbled upon another failure on Brown’s part to reveal non-cash donations to the Electoral Commission for a website registration and domain name. All of which is angrily refuted by Chris Paul.

As reports emerged of a potential Tory funding scandal, Kerron Cross is quick to drew comparisons between the two parties, for which he is criticised by posters on his own blog.

Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report chronicles the past month in the polls, which makes depressing reading for Labour.

Meanwhile, Hain’s opposite number, Chris Grayling, has been receiving praise from unexpected quarters. Paul Walter at Liberal Burbling notes: “Grayling is the only Conservative politician who does not send me into a rage-fuelled high blood pressure crisis. I actually feel the man might actually be talking some sense and that he's not just saying what he says because he thinks he ought to.

"And of course, he is a member of the organisation of which I am the proud Life Patron - the BOGS (Bald Old Gits' Society).”

Owen Walker is a journalist for a number of titles within Financial Times Business, primarily focussing on pensions. He recently graduated from Cardiff University’s newspaper journalism post-graduate course and is cursed by a passion for Crystal Palace FC.
Getty
Show Hide image

Commons Confidential: What happened at Tom Watson's birthday party?

Finances, fair and foul – and why Keir Starmer is doing the time warp.

Keir Starmer’s comrades mutter that a London seat is an albatross around the neck of the ambitious shadow Brexit secretary. He has a decent political CV: he was named after Labour’s first MP, Keir Hardie; he has a working-class background; he was the legal champion of the McLibel Two; he had a stint as director of public prosecutions. The knighthood is trickier, which is presumably why he rarely uses the title.

The consensus is that Labour will seek a leader from the north or the Midlands when Islington’s Jeremy Corbyn jumps or is pushed under a bus. Starmer, a highly rated frontbencher, is phlegmatic as he navigates the treacherous Brexit waters. “I keep hoping we wake up and it’s January 2016,” he told a Westminster gathering, “and we can have another run. Don’t we all?” Perhaps not everybody. Labour Remoaners grumble that Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell sound increasingly Brexitastic.

To Tom Watson’s 50th birthday bash at the Rivoli Ballroom in south London, an intact 1950s barrel-vaulted hall generous with the velvet. Ed Balls choreographed the “Gangnam Style” moves, and the Brockley venue hadn’t welcomed so many politicos since Tony Blair’s final Clause IV rally 22 years ago. Corbyn was uninvited, as the boogying deputy leader put the “party” back into the Labour Party. The thirsty guests slurped the free bar, repaying Watson for 30 years of failing to buy a drink.

One of Westminster’s dining rooms was booked for a “Decent Chaps Lunch” by Labour’s Warley warrior, John Spellar. In another room, the Tory peer David Willetts hosted a Christmas reception on behalf of the National Centre for Universities and Business. In mid-January. That’s either very tardy or very, very early.

The Labour Party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, is a financial maestro, having cleared the £25m debt that the party inherited from the Blair-Brown era. Now I hear that he has squirrelled away a £6m war chest as insurance against Theresa May gambling on an early election. Wisely, the party isn’t relying on Momentum’s fractious footsloggers.

The word in Strangers’ Bar is that the Welsh MP Stephen Kinnock held his own £200-a-head fundraiser in London. Either the financial future of the Aberavon Labour Party is assured, or he fancies a tilt at the top job.

Dry January helped me recall a Labour frontbencher explaining why he never goes into the Commons chamber after a skinful: “I was sitting alongside a colleague clearly refreshed by a liquid lunch. He intervened and made a perfectly sensible point without slurring. Unfortunately, he stood up 20 minutes later and repeated the same point, word for word.”

Kevin Maguire is the 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 19 January 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era