24 January 2008

Some thoughts on the Hain resignation

Firstly, it should have come sooner: why did Hain wait for Police involvement before deciding that clearing his name was more important (and more time-consuming) than his two Ministerial posts?

However, I'll still nod in respect to the man for taking the decision. It had to be taken, and it was the right one. Labour ministers have shown an extraordinary bouncebackability since Mandelson so he won't be out for long, but he can't fight this and do his two jobs at the same time. Late, but right.

Meanwhile, what now for Wendy Alexander? The police received a complaint regarding her liberal interpretation/timely ignorance of party fundraising law, so if Peter Hain feels it right to go, so he can fend off the allegations, why is she still Leader of the Scottish Opposition? This puts her in a very difficult position. Could Hain be the first domino? Even Nicol Stephen - who has hitherto been quiet on the issue - has talked about "storm clouds" gathering over Labour.

And finally, the re-shuffle: James Purnell is now Work & Pensions Secretary. Andy Burnham replaces him at Culture, and Yvette Cooper becomes Chief Secretary to the Treasury. But interestingly, Paul Murphy is brought back to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, and Murphy has no other ministerial titles...

Consider: there is a full-time Secretary of State for Northern Ireland - Shaun Woodward. And a full-time Secretary of State for Wales - Murphy. Scotland, however, still has a part-time Secretary of State, with Defence Secretary Des Browne nominally in the post. Why should the Scotland Office be the odd one out?

Has Gordon Brown thought this one through: did he consider re-instating the full-time post, only to reject it because of at least one of the following two reasons: a) he could find no suitable holders; b) he was scared of the inevitable hostile reaction to such a move in the right-wing London-based press? Or, more likely, did he simply fail to consider the role of the Scotland Secretary when he revised the role of the Wales Secretary so quickly?

And what does it say about the state of the UK, that the last conclusion is the most palatable?


Anonymous said...

Even Nicol Stephen - who has hitherto been quiet on the issue - has talked about "storm clouds" gathering over Labour."

What has he to be scornful about??

What about his shenanigans re the Aberdeen byepass allegations?(See P & J story)

No mention on the Bean broadcasting Co, was there??

Ted Harvey said...

I'm willing to suppose that Gordon Brown did think all this through... and went "OMG! Scotland is so unstable and and risk-laden for us just now, and the Scottish Labour Party is in such a low state of capacity, that anything I do might potentially destablise it further"

Meantime, I have just listened to Des Browne on the Politics Show and watched his continuing self-regarding posturing and positioning of himself as a Scottish Labour Big Man within the Westminster Cabinet.
In pursuit of this (laughable)persona, he will fight anything that takes away part of his brief (be it his part-time earner of being Scottish Minister or his MOD post). Just one source of further instability should Gordon make any moves on Scotland.

Incidentally, I find it faintly distasteful the way Des has taken so readily to using the refrain 'Unionist' to group Labour with the Tories and Lib Dems...'Unionist' has long-enduring negative connotations for anyone anywhere, even mildly, to the left of the centre in Scotland.

Will said...

Anon... there appears to have been coverage in the local press, but otherwise, it hasn't broken into the national stories. Perhaps that's a mark of how little attention the LibDems are capable of getting these days, that even their scandals stay local.

Ted, what you say is a real possibility. Brown was billed as the 'big, clunking fist', the strong leader who will take the tough decisions. Since taking office, however, he's dithered and shied away from the hard calls. He's allegedly interfered in the Treasury, but avoided everything else. Maybe, after all, he is afraid of rocking the boat. And if he's afraid of that political heavyweight Des Browne, who by the PM's own admission is supposed to be little more than a figurehead at the Scotland Office with David Cairns doing most of the legwork, then there's no hope, honestly.