It was a muddle not a fiddle which did for Henry McLeish's career as Scotland's First Minister. I suspect the same is going to be true for Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain.
The news that he failed to register with the Electoral Commission donations totalling £103,000 for his failed bid to be deputy leader of the Labour Party is astonishing. When it first emerged that Hain had been having problems with his declarations, it appeared to be an isolated example. I suspect many people thought he was just unlucky and were prepared to let the matter drop.
However, he soon admitted that there were other undeclared donations and now, almost two months later, he's had to admit that there are about 20 donations which weren't declared.
I can't understand why it's taken him so long to discover this. Surely he must have had a list of people who had donated to his campaign and also a list of declarations he had made to the Electoral Commission. Why was it not a simple matter of checking one list against another?
Apparently, people in Hain's campaign team are arguing about who was responsible for the mess. There's a simple answer to that: the ultimate responsibility has to lie with Hain himself. He was the person in charge of the campaign and one of the most basic jobs when running any campaign is to make sure that all rules regarding funding and donations are met in full. For whatever reason, that didn't happen and Hain is the one who has to carry the can.
Hain claims that it was the pressure of trying to combine his government job with running a deputy leadership campaign which led to the chaos. If true, that is a damning indictment of his own abilities. As the old saying goes, if you can't juggle at least two balls, you shouldn't be in the bloody circus. If he's unable to cope with a relatively simple matter like running a deputy leadership campaign properly, then how much more difficult is it to cope with the complexities of the Department for Work and Pensions?
Peter Hain's position is untenable and he must go.
UPDATE: I see Liberal Action has a similar take on the story.
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