Martin Bright

The Complex Personality of Peter Hain

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A good mini-scoop from the Independent on Sunday based on an article from Peter Hain. News stories based on articles by politicians are often the last refuge of a political journalist who has run out of road. But this piece by Jane Merrick and Brian Brady is an exception.

The former Work and Pension Secretary is putting his head above the parapet on this one and issuing a rousing call for the Labour Party to return to its true values. He makes similar points in his interview in the Sunday Telegraph, although that newspaper chose to make a little less of them.

 

The following two paragraphs in the Hain piece in the Sindy are a genuine challenge to the "Continuity New Labour" narrative:

"Despite Gordon Brown's best efforts, Labour has not had a clear enough narrative right across government. Ministers have developed a habit of making technocratic speeches where the very purpose of Labour gets lost. On TV and radio, some now sound more like managers than politicians.

Whatever their individual policy merits, identity cards, Trident, nuclear power, Royal Mail part-privatisation and Heathrow's third runway do not add up to a programme to get the pulse of potential Labour voters racing. They may each reflect the hard politics of very difficult choices that credible, serious government for the long term always requires – and where Cameron's hypocritical posturing just demonstrates how unfit for power he is. But where is the story in all that; where is the distinctive Labour narrative; where are the Labour values of social justice and freedom? "

I have always had a lot of time for Peter Hain. He is a substantial figure, who was a great loss to the government when he was forced out in January 2008. I even wondered whether I was becoming a Hainite at one point. Over a series of articles last year he warned Brown against triangulation and urged the party to shore up its core vote withe a return to core values. In this he has been perfectly consistent. But now the stakes are higher (as Jane and Brian point out Brown is taking an increasingly strict line about loyalty.

There is a tendency inside and outside the Labour Party to write off Peter Hain as too vain, or too left-wing. Many in the party still find it hard to forgive him his Liberal Party past. But he is a much more complex figure than most people imagine.