Spotted by the excellent Newshound. In the current issue of The Spectator magazine, Ruth Dudley Edwards picks up on the continuing troubles of the Secretary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, and in particular the inquiry requested by Mr Justice Girvan, “who — if there is any justice — will be Peter Hain’s nemesis”, following his initial ruling. From the Spectator article[free reg req]
Republicans rightly call their secretaries of state ‘proconsuls’, for they are powerful, yet electorally unaccountable. Still, they are under more day-to-day scrutiny than most Cabinet members: the NIW[Northern Ireland Watchers] microscopes can quickly reveal virtues and vices which are missed on the mainland. Lack of principle is a frequent characteristic of the quick-fixers who try to make deals in Northern Ireland, but what has staggered many is that Hain has shown an arrogance and contempt for the law that would have horrified any unionist prime minister of an unreformed Northern Ireland.
Of the five New Labour secretaries of state, pin-up populist Mo Mowlam did a terrible job, not just because she had no sense of history and ignored the details of her brief, but because she was at heart a hippy who was antipathetic towards uniforms, stuffiness, the God-fearing and the law-abiding. Yet her party and the country thought she was a triumph who was axed by a jealous Blair.
The spinners’ spinner, Peter Mandelson, confounded preconceptions with his genuine empathy with victims of terrorism. Long after his resignation he continued to give money, time and effort to those pursuing a civil case against the Omagh bombers. (Hain, by contrast, distinguished himself by falling asleep during a meeting with a bereaved father.) No surprises with the others: John Reid was a capable and articulate bully and Paul Murphy a safe pair of hands. But Hain — and what one journalist calls his ‘brazen self-serving’ — is a revelation.
Given his South African background and his troops-out history, it was assumed he would be instinctively pro-nationalist, yet it was quickly clear that what drove him were the orders of his present and future masters and personal ambition: flouting honour, sense, morality — and now, it emerges, the law — he has been on a three-pronged crusade. In a miasma of zealotry, he is in search of a legacy for Tony Blair, substantial cost-cutting for Gordon Brown and the Labour deputy leadership for himself.[added emphasis]
RDE does identify one consistency however
Mark Durkan, the SDLP leader, emulated a couple of Welsh MPs who have tried vainly to bring the Girvin judgment to wider attention, when at Northern Ireland Questions on 22 November he asked, ‘In the Secretary of State’s opinion, would it be a breach of the commitment in the new pledge of office to uphold the rule of law, including support for the courts, if a minister were deemed to have misled a court, if a senior civil servant were deemed to have misled a court in an affidavit seen and approved by a minister, or if a minister misrepresented a court when it clearly found against him on a key matter?’
‘I have no idea what the honourable gentleman is referring to,’ said Hain, consistent to the last in failing in his duty of candour.
That would be the high standard expected…