On the difference between the man and the ball…

I see Pete’s getting a fair old knocking for his ‘rough treatment’ of Peter Hain. Pete (our Pete that is, I wouldn’t dream of addressing the Secretary of State for Wales, etc in such casual terms) tells me it’s nothing personal: he’s just keeping an eye on the machinery of government. But, if you want real Hain bashing, try Simon Heffer in the Telegraph.

He wants to be deputy leader of the Labour Party. His website proudly announces that 32 MPs have declared their support for him.

The ruthless way in which he forced a deal in Northern Ireland – such as by threatening Unionists with the destruction of their beloved grammar schools if they didn’t team up with people like former IRA gangster Martin McGuinness – shows he will stop at nothing to rack up “successes” with which he can woo the Labour electorate. We can only assume that Mr Hain thought that promising to destroy the life-chances of thousands of children in Ulster was a fit price to be paid for him getting his own way, and moving another rung up the ladder.

Hearing his ridiculously florid oratory before the cameras as the deal was struck on Monday, one realised what a very high opinion he has of himself, and hopes others will have, too. His website invites us to join the debate about the future of Labour not, one imagines, because he has the slightest interest in what we have to say, but because pretending to “listen” and to be seen as “bringing people together” – whether in Northern Ireland or in the even bloodier battleground of the Labour Party – is crucial to the image of a modern politician.

Obsessed with image, and with himself as an agent of political “change”, he has a film on his website in which the actor Richard Wilson (you know – “I don’t beleeeeeve it”) comes out in support of him for deputy leader. Every button that must be pressed to oil up to significant current pressure groups is, indeed, pressed: Mr Hain is big on sustainable communities and all environmental concerns. All these things – Ulster, his Welsh constituency, his carbon-reduction mania, his sycophantic support of Gordon Brown – are but crutches on which he trusts he will speed ahead of Labour’s other moral and political cripples in the race to be the next prime minister’s chief cypher.

Hmmm… another Tory who wants Milliband to be next PM

  • I guess the hostility of some Uniionists towards Hain (from both political and media circles) is understandable. As a republican, I have long held a gut instinct that Hain has never lost his youthful aspirations to see some form of All-Ireland government at some stage in the future. His recent assertions that these aspirations were the mere stuff of a naive political youth are possibly more for current political expediency than anything else. Hain has generally been a friend to Irish Nationalism and his subtle influence in progressing that aspiration is noted.

    That he is career-minded and self-serving should surely not cause mass astonishment as this description applies to the vast majority of his senior party colleagues….

  • BogExile


    In the beginning was the tan
    And the tan saw the (UV)light
    And the darkness comprehended it not
    I am not Tony, said the tan
    But I have been sent by Tony
    As a witness to beat armalites into ploughshares
    Or at least timeshares
    I will part the waters
    From your rates
    Unless you sit at my masters table
    Within 40 days and 40 nights
    And lo,it came to pass
    That the Provolites and Children of Paisley
    Lay down with the Lion of Neath
    And all was peace upon the earth
    And the four Horsemen decomissioned their Apocalypse
    And the Tan dwelt in the house of ‘Broon’


  • philip

    No right-thinking person would want to see a primary school run by a board of governors whose memberships are all paedophiles. This is an extreme analogy but the obnoxious feeling is mirrored onto this unholy alliance.
    People who actually vote for Sinn Fein must know that they are indirectly supporting the IRA. People who vote DUP must know that they are directly supporting intolerance. How are both parties able to put across the message that masks the truth? Where does the blame lie? Is it the UUP/SDLP for making mistakes or is it the voters who fundamentally want a ‘winner’ per se?

  • Crataegus

    I enjoyed reading that link

    and the decision that power in Northern Ireland will be shared between a geriatric charismatic bigot and the political leaders of a bunch of mass murderers.

  • Aquifer

    Peter Hain is a real politician. He gets power and uses it, he gives people grown-up choices, he shows us that government is there to change things, and for the better. A hard act to follow, and no fun for interviewers. Unenglish and at ease. Unionists and journos could hate him for that.

  • merrie

    > power in Northern Ireland will be shared between a geriatric charismatic bigot and the political leaders of a bunch of mass murderers.

    Aha. This is what makes Northern Ireland unique.

  • Marosa

    I have no time for Peter Hain – this is a man who was anti Euro to the point he wrote books about what a bad thing it would be, until he had a road to Damascus conversion when Blair made him minister of Europe. A real politician indeed.

    Whatever he did to get a deal in NI the government should have done a long time ago.

    I hope you guys can all work together and find a lasting peace, unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to happen with Paisley and Adams around.

  • Jesus, Heffer is an arse. Their beloved grammar schools! Aw diddums! The man would quite happily chuck it all away in order to oppose comprehensive education, apparently.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    This issue has come up on another thread but it’s worth mentioning here.

    The rule of play ball not man should be adhered to is the mantra of slugger and people do their best to follow it.
    However, this rule seems to be reversed when dealing with certain issues and people from certain organisations. For one, the Andersontown News /now the Belfast Media Group – gets an unfair hammering from certain posters and commenters whenever it’s brought into debate in Slugger. We’re all big enough to take such slagging no doubt but I do think it shows the inbuilt bias of Slugger when man playing is allowed to pass in certain circumstances and not in others….

  • And a profound “Encore!” to you, Alex. Heffer is not just an arse, he is a pompous and flatulent one.

    Note his carefully trimmed wikipedia entry: bet it needs as much attention as a Playboy Brazilian (sorry about that Metrosexual reference: it’s probably lost on good-living souls in God’s Own Province).

    And he’s a thieving git. He repeatedly claims and is cited as “the author of the phrase ‘Essex man'”. He nicked it from an October 1974 article by the political correspondent of the “Financial Times”. The term “Upminster Man” (geddit? Look up where Upminster is) appeared in the Pink ‘Un’s review of the Havering-Upminster line-up for the second ’74 General Election. Not many people know that.

    And, be brutally honest, Hain pulled it off. A dexterous use of carrot-and-stick by the Blair/Hain partnership achieved closure (see last Sunday’s “Observer” for where I stand). For the first time ever we’ve got the two gargoyles inside the tent pissing out (© LBJ?). [By the way, nice cover on the latest “Private Eye”: the ruler-of-my-heart says she’s going to frame it].

    Back to the point, however. Tory Balubas got us into this mess a century ago. The last thing we need is them dragging us back into la merde. They do, if only for short-term intra-party reasons. Hefferlump should be read as part of the developing sally by the UKIPist/fogeyite faction on the tradtional Tory right against the trimming, ducking and diving of the Cameroonies (see also Hitchens’ C4 prog on Monday). In other words, it has more to do with the London-Brussels axis than Westminster-Stormont.

    Answer on not more than one side of a page.

  • It’s a good idea to play the ball not the man. However, in Hain’s case, his actions are so closely related to personality, it’s hard not to break the rule. Fow what it’s worth, Heffer sums Hain up very well.

    “Closure”? I don’t think so. This particular game has a long time to run yet.

  • merrie

    I don’t recall ever reading anything positive from Heffer. He attacks everyone. He may think he’s today’s Evelyn Waugh.

  • Yes, “closure”, Watchman.

    The Brits have paid the course-fees for all, picked up the ball, packed their kit, and are off to R&R. Your game may have “a long time to run yet”, but it’s going to be solitaire.

    Read the runes. The BBC for London and the South-East has run a series of features on the cost of living in London. Yesterday, this was underlined by “businessmen” whinging about the differential Government expenditure on the Capital versus that on Scotland. And, of course, Northern Ireland is (to English eyes) even more costly than Scotland.

    Plan B is harsher than water charges. Over the last quarter-century: Westminster was prepared to devastate the coal-fields of the north of England; tens of thousands lost jobs in the privatised industries; the iron works have gone. How many cars come out of Coventry and Longbridge? What happened to ship-building? The working class of the mainland got MacJobs; Tesco shelf-stuffing; call-centre broiler-houses.

    Wealth is being concentrated: the city-slickers got their annual mega-bonuses; the rich got their multimillion-pound houses in the London suburbs. And they’re going to keep them.

    Let’s assume that the Tory-ultras (like Heffer) really get up a head of steam. Their issue, above all, is tax-cuts. Reckon they’ll find money in the kitty for bailing out the North Again? Particularly if (when) the SNP make it easy for them by unpicking the Union?

    Let’s change the metaphor.

    The Brits have posted back the ring. You’re getting your billion, plus a sub from Dublin. That’s your divorce settlement, like it or not.