An interesting profile of Peter Hain in the anti-Sabbatarian Independent on Sunday by Andrew Mueller – and some interesting notes about more local politicians too. Andrew Mueller shadowed him through some public appearances, such as the recent visit to St Louis’ Convent Primary School in Ballymena and talked to him about being careful with full-stops and commas, his apparent reluctance to talk about his firebrand past, on never having considered a political career, and on what he sees as his [Northern Ireland related] job description – “My job is to understand both where people are coming from, across the community divide, and where we need to get to. To go back over history… I don’t think it’s helpful to anybody.”As always in such profiles it’s as revealing in what others have to say, including the asides by the writer who notes, seemingly by-the-way, Peter Hain’s chuckle at remembering his appointment as Secretary of State –
“I didn’t anticipate it. [But] Tony Blair made it clear to me before the election that he understood the case for me getting a bigger job than I’d had. In previous jobs I’ve often been given big problems to solve, usually by the Prime Minister, and I’ve enjoyed doing them.” There’s a chuckle after “Prime Minister” that would be ill-suited by any adjective but “smug”. Without prompting, Hain unfurls his glittering CV.
And from an unnamed Unionist politician –
“The British government believed Sinn Fein were being driven into a position of doing business, following the Northern Bank robbery and the murder of Robert McCartney. It suited Britain to send someone with a background of supporting troops-out, and Irish unity. Hain has all that. He’s essentially an opportunist, though – maybe the plastic, android approach is one he has to adopt to go along with something which is expedient, career-wise.”
To which Hain’s response is –
“It’s not pragmatism in the grubby sense,” he insists. “I don’t want to pose, or posture, or occupy a position because I’ve got a limo and a reasonable salary. I want to make change. I remember arguing with Tariq Ali, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, who told me I shouldn’t be leading campaigns to run on cricket pitches or rugby pitches, I should be digging the pitches up, and fighting police outside, because that’s fighting capitalism. That was revolutionary balderdash. And whilst he was preaching that rhetoric, we were actually stopping the tour. That defines my whole approach to politics.”
And on Northern Ireland, in spite of recurring medieval violence –
“This is,” insists Hain, “a really nice place, full of really nice people.”