27 January 2008

Cabinet '08: it's the march of the duffers...

...or in fact the January of the duffers.

First the resignation of Peter Hain three days ago, after alleged irregularities in donations to his deputy leadership campaign were referred to the police by the Electoral Commission.

This followed news coverage of alleged irregularities in donations to Harriet Harman's (successful) deputy leadership campaign back in November.

And now... alleged irregularities in donations to Alan Johnson's deputy leadership campaign.

Would Hazel Blears or Hilary Benn care to step forward now so we can get their investigation of donation irregularities over with? Or shall we just carry on doing them one by one?

(I think Jon Cruddas is safe as he didn't take up a ministerial post despite being allegedly offered one by Brown just after the handover in June).

Back in the spring when there was an extensive debate in the Labour Party over whether it would be a good idea to hold a deputy leadership, there were several arguments against having one: it was too expensive, it would distract from the key business of getting Brown established as the new PM, it would turn Labour's focus inward instead of outward, etc. One argument I can't remember anyone using was, "there shouldn't be an election because no-one involved will adhere to the rules on donations and so it will result in an avalanche of negative publicity and a police investigation." And yet this is precisely what has happened.

It seems to be the case that almost no-one involved in several of the deputy leadership campaigns either understood or adhered to the donation rules. WIth people this lame involved in the day-to-day running of the Labour party, is it any wonder Labour is behind in the polls?

Perhaps the worst aspect of Hain's resignation is that his place has been taken by James "Mr Photoshop" Purnell, a Blairite hack of the very worst kind. Hain may have been clueless, but he at least had a radical history, even if it was pretty distant. Purnell seems like the kind of guy for whom buying The Independent constitutes a radical act. It's a glimpse of the future of mainstream politics in this country, and it's depressing. One of the (few) consolations of a Conservative victory next time round is that Purnell would be out of the Government - unless he decides to switch parties, which, given that his political position is indistinguishable from David Cameron's, is quite possible.

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