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September 24, 2006

Peter Hain

Via email I am upbraided by Brian Barder for my intemperate reaction to Peter Hain's recent announcements of his conversion to the importance of civil liberties. Brian's views are here.

The thing is, what Hain is saying is indeed welcome, would very much be an improvement upon the current situation.

It's just that I cannot imagine a world in which a Cabinet Minister actually says what he means or means what he says. It's not happened in the past ten years, after all. The only Minister of any level who actually tried it, Frank Field, got fired for doing so, did he not?

September 24, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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This would be the Peter Hain who happily boasts of deploying security legislation for electoral advantage, would it? "We are crowding out any space for them on the security agenda." (http://politics.guardian.co.uk/queensspeech2004/story/0,,1358367,00.html)

Posted by: John Lettice | Sep 24, 2006 12:04:11 PM

No, not upbraided, and certainly not for intemperance: I merely expressed disappointment that you had opted, perhaps (alas!) rightly, for a negative interpretation of Hain's remarks when they seem to me equally capable of being taken at face value, especially in the Observer article discussed in my post (as distinct from the Telegraph interview discussed in your earlier one). Surely there must be some occasions when some politicians mean what they say? And in this case Peter Hain would be likelier to benefit personally and politically if he meant what he said in the Observer and to the Telegraph than if he actually meant something else, don't you think? At any rate, it's a straw to grasp at (no pun intended).


Tim adds: Some occasions when some politicians mean what they say? Perhaps. ' Ow, that hurts' as the tyre necklace is lit? (If only it were more common!)

Posted by: BrianB | Sep 24, 2006 2:45:00 PM

I wonder whether John Lettice's comment above is really fair. Peter Hain's remarks quoted by John seem to be taken from a Guardian article here (the end of the URL is cut off in John's comment), dating back to comments on the Queen's Speech made in November 2004, nearly two years ago and in the lead-up to the last general election, an especially partisan time. The full text of the relevant paragraph reads:

'Peter Hain, leader of the Commons, told reporters that Labour's security package was intended to force the Lib Dems into further U-turns to support tougher measures against petty crime, and to force the Tories rightwards. "We are crowding out any space for them on the security agenda. That will make for an interesting political year," he said.'

This doesn't seem to me especially objectionable as an electoral tactic: to seek to occupy the centre ground on a highly topical and controversial issue in order to avoid exposing one's flank to the main opposition parties to the right. Hain expresses the point in typically combative language, perhaps with too much candour -- the opposite, in fact, of what he and indeed all politicians are accused of by his critics.


Posted by: BrianB | Sep 24, 2006 3:16:15 PM

This would be the Peter Hain who defended ID cards on Question Time by stating that you'd need one to park at Disneyland would it?

He's had nine years to show his liberal credentials - anyone noticed?

Posted by: Frank Fisher | Sep 25, 2006 11:34:16 AM