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Party = state?

I have written before of the nationalisation of politics in Great Britain. In short, I think Peter Oborne’s thesis in the the Political Class is almost right, but back to front. We are much closer to the authoritarian “no-party state” advocated by Brian Crozier, realised, however by Djilas’ New Class sucking up consumerism and the New Left rather than through caudillo-corporatism. But I did not realise it had gone so far: how much the constitution has changed in that particular respect the last decade; how much in public discourse the government and the governing party are now identified.

Peter Hain MP is in trouble. His inexplicably luxuriantly financed campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party, turns out not to have counted over £100,000 in donations. It is all over the newspaper and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and the Electoral Commission are both investigating. I’m sorry? Apparently the failure to account is a criminal offence. It what?

Now maybe it couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke, Mr Hain (an African by birth) having moved from being the leader of the Anti-Apartheid Campaign in the UK in his twenties to one of the leading advocates of a new pass-law system for his adopted country. But I am outraged on his behalf in this case.

Someone has to be. All Mr Hain has done is to say he was too busy to notice the alleged offences being carried out in his name, not challenge, as the younger man would have done, the ludicrousness of the context. All the media has done is have vapours about the wickedness of using money to send leaflets and not reporting it to officials, and ridicule the poor man’s “orange” complexion in a way they would think disgusting and itself borderline criminal if he were an ethnically darker African.

Maybe I have not been paying enough attention, but I have not read anywhere yet the obvious point. … This was a Labour Party election. It should be a private matter for that organisation. If Mr Hain has broken his own party’s rules then let his own party penalise him in accordance with those rules. It is no business of parliament. It is no business of the official parliament has crazily set over its members’ conduct as parliamentarians. It is no business of the Electoral Commission, whose only plausible excuse for existing is to oversee elections to public office.

Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is an office without significant power and responsibility even in the Labour Party; it has no legislative or executive or judicial function in any other British institution. If members of the Labour Party want to decide their leadership by lot, by bribery, or by a contest to see who can piss into Kier Hardy’s cap from the greatest distance, then it is nobody else’s business. Whether the Labour Party is in government&#0151it is, Rip van Winkel& #0151how it gets there, and what it does there, are matters of public importance for public debate and ought to be governed by constitutional law. How the Labour Party is organised might be interesting (though it isn’t), might be contingently important to the conduct of a Labour Government (though as far as I can see it isn’t), but the Labour Party is a voluntary organisation. Until joining the Labour Party is compulsory, or Labour connections give preferential treatment in life outside politics (and that it is not itself regarded as improper), then non-members have no legitimate say in the affairs of the Labour Party.

Mr Hain appears to me to have been an effective and loyal member of a consistently vile administration. It is for that he should be condemned, particularly when his antecedents would lead one to expect at least some civil libertarian principle. We have every right to despise and vilify him on those grounds. (But no state official has.) If the voters of Neath think Mr Hain’s conduct or character makes him an inadequate representative, then they are sovreign at the ballot-box to remove him, if necessary with a dead dog wearing a red rosette. Welsh voters and local parties aren’t passive clients of the party, even though it often treats them like that. Until he commits a real crime, or those voters chuck him out, though, Mr Hain gets my reluctant support in keeping his seat and his office.

He is no more morally guilty than when he was tried for armed robbery. It is vexatiously mistaken identity, with the power of the state prayed in aid of someone-else’s fight. The aye-witless demand for security provided by the state even against a the rough and tumble of a private game is the agent provocateur this time, not an eye-witness procured by a foreign Bureau of State Security.

13 comments to Party = state?

  • countingcats

    “Everything for the State; nothing outside the State; “ – Benito Mussolini

    Ditto, New Labour

  • A fair point, but the fact still remais that it IS a crime (and it was New Labour who mde it a crime) and so we’re faced with a Cabinet member who is, by definition, a criminal.

    We’re also faced with the fact that the man who controls the biggest budget in Westminster can forget to register over half of his donations – hardly an inspiring sign of his competence is it!

    Hain blames his crime on being too busy working his three jobs (MP for Neath, Welsh Secretary and Minister for DWP) while also running an election campaig. If the guy can’t juggle, he should get out of the circus.


  • Ian B

    I think there are some significant points here-

    a) He is a primary member of an odious class of oleaginous dictatocrats who all right thinking people would like to see outside a petrol station, swinging from a lamp post. As such, we don’t care if he falls from grace for spitting in the street, just so long as he falls. His whole political philosophy is one of creating an inherently corrupt, ruthless kleptocratic oligarchy. Every “scandal” like this helps the great unwashed come to the realisation of that. If there were another party in power, Hain and his greasy colleagues would be grubbing around looking for mud to sling at them, as they did in previous times. They know full well what’ll happen if they get caught out, as he has been. Shed no tears for this man.

    2) The petard by which he has been hoist was lit by his own party; as they moved into power with their determination for absolute power, they created the rules by which now they’re finding they may too have to live. This is poetic justice; despite the fact that what we’re really seeing is just one ruling class gang attacking another, so it’s not justice at all.

    3) Never trust any politician who is bright orange. See also Robert Kilroy Silk.

  • In Australia there is state funding of political parties. In order to assure that this state funding is not “misused”, there are therefore legal definitions of what a political party is, and how they should operate, with criminal penalties for breach of these laws. This sort of situation is another reason why state funding of political parties is a very bad idea, but it seems in Britain we can reach the same situation without this impetus.

  • Gareth

    “This was a Labour Party election. It should be a private matter for that organisation. If Mr Hain has broken his own party’s rules then let his own party penalise him in accordance with those rules. It is no business of parliament. It is no business of the official parliament has crazily set over its members’ conduct as parliamentarians. It is no business of the Electoral Commission, whose only plausible excuse for existing is to oversee elections to public office.”

    Bear in mind what is at fault is not expenditure in their campaigns, but recording of donations to the Members of Parliament (or legal entities set up to directly benefit them) who happened to be taking part in the Party election.

    It is a legal requirement that donations or benefits in kind to MPs above a certain level must be declared. In these instances it was that the donations were for a specific reason rather then a general gesture of support.

    Should these donations not have to be declared in the same manner as donations to MPs who aren’t taking part in Party elections?

  • Kevin B

    And Ian B smashes it out of the park again!

    (Incidentally, no relation)

  • ian

    George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor, seems to have similarly lost about £0.5m, which doesn’t say a lot for his ability to handle our money as Chancellor, but in the end who is surprised? Politics is a game of personal advancement – at our cost, so it is entirely to be expected that they will make and manage the rules to suit. That they manage to cock that up too is surely in the end to our advantage – who wants politicians who are good at manipulating the system for their benefit?

  • steve-roberts

    There should not be laws about political donations, but as long as politicians assume the right to legislatively microcontrol the lives of the rest of us, I do not think it wrong to insist that they conform to the legislation they conceived and directed through parliament.

    In other words, let them free the people from oppressive law before freeing themselves.

  • Ian B

    As I said above, we need to remember that these rules were created by New Labour specifically to wound their political opponents. Most attempts at “political reform” are motivated by this, or to subvert the political apparatus to the reformers’ partisan ends. E.g the left seek to limit donations from evil corporations, the right seek to limit donations from evil trades unions.

    So these rules were intended to prove the corruption of the Conservative Party. Progressivists, believing themselves to be inherently good, had trouble recognising that they too could fall foul of them. They are no doubt sitting in huddles whimpering about how the laws they created are being “misused” against them and how they must modify them to not be capable of being “misused” in this way by “the enemies of progressive goodnessness”.

  • Paul Marks

    There is the point that some of the money spent on Mr Hain’s campain came from the “Progressive Policy Insitute”.

    Now while the very word “Progressive” might make me despise people who give this body money, it was still supposed to be a research institute – so its using money to fund Mr Hain’s campaign for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is ……

  • Paul Marks

    However, Guy Herbert is correct – we do face a political class rather than political parties that have real differences. The reaction to the recent words of the Bishop of Rochester are an example of this.

    In “the old days” (as recently as the 1980’s) at least one of the major political parties might have been expected to defend the Bishop – but today all rushed to attack him, in order to show how P.C. they are. Of course P.C. doctrine actually fits even less well with the doctines of Islam than it does with Christian doctrine (but the political class prefers not to think too deeply).

    The Bishop had said that in areas of British town and cities people who were neither Muslim or at least an effort to pass for Muslim had serious problems. But rather than examine what he was saying the political class just denied everything and attacked him.

    The Conservative party even trotted out its Shadow Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague, as if areas of British towns and cities were somehow overseas and under the remit of the Foreign Office.

    Mr Hague (the M.P. for Richmond, North Yorkshire) claimed that the Bishop (an Asian who has for many years studied the areas he was discussing) did not know what he was talking about.

  • Monty

    The leadership positions in any party, but especially a party in power, must be immune, and seen to be immune, to corruption. And a person or persons unknown, via this rather questionable think tank, appears to have submitted a very significant donation. What did they want?

  • John K

    It is quite understandable that this NuLabor slimeball did not think that the law his own government passed should not apply to him, after all, Stalin never felt too bound by the limits of the 1936 Soviet Constitution did he? Peter Hain is the Leona Helmsley of politics: the law only applies to the little people as far as he is concerned.