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Corruption in British Politics - Then and Now

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.

Is Hain ...
. Entirely innocent? 0%
. Unwise, but it does not matter? 33%
. In need of a long holiday, with his family? 0%
. In need of a stay, as a guest of Her Majesty (ie a prison term)? 0%
. Too valuable to Gordon Brown to lose? 0%
. Too aware of where the bodies are buried to sack? 0%
. A useful distraction from other Labour funding scandals? 66%

Votes: 3
Results | Other Polls
Should he not have had an agent or a treasurer for his campaign? I can believe that Peter Hain himself would not have kept track of where money was coming from but he'd be foolish not to have given someone else the role.

On a personal level, I quite like him.  Politically I often don't.  I did manage to win an argument with him once, although it didn't change his vote on the Bill in question.

In situations like this, you don't really know what you are being fed by the media.  There are so many agendas to filter through that the real story drifts off into oblivion.  I largely tend to ignore these things now because I have no idea who to believe.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 13th, 2008 at 05:50:21 AM EST
As inWales says, it's pretty hard to work out the truth of the situation form the reports in the media because, let's be frank, they have their own agenda and it is rarely the unblemished pursuit of truth..

however, let's say that the situation stinks like month-old fish.

However, I would take issue that british politics has always been clean. The Conservatives famously used the River Companies to channel funding anonymously, illegally and invisibly into party coffers from the Attlee government. The existence of these was only revealed in the early 80's (I think) by investigative reporter rosie Waterhouse (no other details known).

Also, our definition of sleaze has changed. UK's railway system may have been destroyed by Dr beeching in the 60s, but the man who appointed him earnt his money from road haulage and so was in a position to improve his business. This was not remarked upon at the time.

Equally, although we now have an investigation into the idea of buying honours, the automatic rewarding of generous donors to party funds has been going on since time immemorial. Indeed, at least one 20th century administration had a semi-official list of how much bought which honour.

However, corruption really only became a noticeable feature of the political scene during the Thatcher era when it was noticed that many Ministers and MPs who presided over various privatisations ended up with lucrative consultancies and directorships. This degenerated during the Major era when it was quite obvious that many were up to their necks in buying favours, taking bribes for votes and accepting the promise of directorships for favours.

the Labour party are not especially sleazy, however they are stupidly brazen about it.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Jan 13th, 2008 at 01:11:37 PM EST
Fairly decent book on the history of corruption in the Tory party

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 13th, 2008 at 02:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It may just be that the establishment used to be better at covering up wrongdoing and the population was then too deferential to challenge "their betters".
by Gary J on Tue Jan 15th, 2008 at 08:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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