James Forsyth

The Hain and Osborne cases are not the same

The Hain and Osborne cases are not the same
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The idea that George Osborne and Peter Hain’s funding issues are somehow equivalent is absurd. One is a case of confusion over how many times something should be declared and the other is an issue of complete non-disclosure.

Hain’s use of the Progressive Politics Forum to donate to his campaign is a scandal in and of itself. Whether intentionally or not, this device obscured the identity of those giving to Hain and had the same effect as David Abraham’s use of third parties.

Then, there’s the question of timing. Hain first conceded irregularities in his funding on November 27th last year when he announced that he had failed to register a £5,000 donation from the Brown recruited, chief Labour fundraiser Jon Mendelsohn. The next week he conceded that there were other undeclared donations. Yet, it wasn’t until last week that Hain produced a full accounting.

To top all this off, Hain has refused to offer himself up for proper questioning. If he really wants us to believe that this is just a series of unfortunate cock ups, he must come forward and explain fully how all this happened.

By contrast, all the Osborne donations were declared—the only issue is whether they needed to be declared to more than one body. The Tories also sought advice on what they were meant to do before this issue entered into the public domain. The contrast with Hain’s complete non-disclosure could not be starker.

There is clearly confusion over how and where these donations to Osborne’s office should have been registered; the email exchange between the Tories and the Parliamentary Commissioner*, which Sam Coates helpfully reproduces, includes the representative if the Electoral Commission telling the Tory point person, “I think I misled you just now.” In the Hain case, the boot is firmly on the other foot.

The Osborne case brings to mind the issue of David Blunkett and the DNA Bioscience shares, where it was unclear whether or not Blunkett needed to seek advice before purchasing the shares. In both cases, the rules needed to be clearer but trouble could have been avoided if the politicians had offered up as much information as possible. 

Osborne can be criticised for not going beyond what appeared to be required by the regulations. Hain can be criticised for not complying with either the letter or the spirit of them. The two cases are of a completely different magnitude.

*An earlier version, incorrectly said the emails were between the Tories and the Electoral Commission

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articlePolitics