Peter Hain

Peter Gerald Hain (born 16 February 1950, Nairobi, Kenya) is a British Labour Party politician who has served in the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as Leader of the House of Commons under Blair and both the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Secretary of State for Wales under Brown. He resigned from ministerial office over his failure to declare donations to his campaign for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party in 2008. He is the Member of Parliament for the Welsh constituency of Neath. He came to the UK from South Africa as a teenager, and was a noted anti-apartheid campaigner in the 1970s.

Early life

Hain was born to South African parents who were anti-apartheid activists in the South African Liberal Party, for which they were made "banned persons", briefly jailed, and prevented from working.

When Hain was 10, he was awoken in the early hours by police officers searching his bedroom for 'incriminating documents'. As a result of police harassment, Hain's father was unable to continue his work as an architect, and the family decided to leave for the United Kingdom in April 1966.

Life in London

Hain was educated at Pretoria Boys High School and at Emanuel School, Queen Mary College (University of London) graduating with a first class Bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science in 1973 and the University of Sussex, obtaining an M.Phil.. After university, Hain worked as a researcher for the Union of Communication Workers, rising to become their head of research.

Peter became chairman of the Stop The Tour campaign which disrupted tours by the South African rugby union and cricket teams in 1969 and 1970. A 1972 private prosecution brought by Francis Bennion in regard to his leadership of the illegal direct-action interference with the tours resulted in a ten-day Old Bailey Trial with the jury failing to agree on three charges and hence he was acquitted on those charges, but Peter Hain was found guilty of criminal conspiracy and fined £200. He appealed against the conviction in 1973. The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal with costs. As reported in the Daily Telegraph of 23 October 1973, the court said his conviction was "fully justified". Lord Justice Roskill said Hain had not elected to give evidence, adding that "He gave no explanation of his part over the incidents with which he was charged."

In 1972 he was sent a letter bomb that failed to explode because of faulty wiring. In 1976 Hain was tried for, and acquitted of, a 1974 bank robbery, allegedly having been framed by South African intelligence agents. Two schoolboys positively identified him. A deliberate "double" may have taken part in the robbery. Despite modern DNA techniques and mass fingerprinting now being available no further investigation of this unsolved case is known to have taken place. Six MPs, led by Liberal David Steel, called for the resignation of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Norman Skelhorn, over the Hain case.

Joining the Liberal and Labour Parties

He joined the Liberal Party and was elected president of the Young Liberals, but in 1977 switched to Labour. The same year, he was a founder of the Anti-Nazi League and he remains a prominent supporter of Unite Against Fascism today.

Member of Parliament

He contested Putney in the 1983 and 1987 general elections but was defeated on both occasions by Conservative David Mellor.

In 1991 he was elected to the House of Commons at the by-election in Neath that followed the death of the sitting member, Donald Coleman. In 1995 he became a Labour whip and in 1996 became a shadow employment minister.

In government

After Labour's victory in the 1997 general election he joined the government, first at the Welsh Office, then as minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

In November 1999, as Africa minister he entertained Robert Mugabe in London who told him “I know you are not one of them, Peter; you are one of us,” But the following day, following an attempt by Gay Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to carry out a 'citizen's arrest' on Mugabe, Mugabe accused Hain of being Tatchell's "wife.

In October 2000 he set up a war avoidance team to carry messages back and forth between himself the then Minister of Foreign Affairs in Iraq, Tariq Aziz (a matter then confidential which has since been put on public record in an interview with Mr Hain by the Today program). Team members who travelled repeatedly to Iraq on behalf of Mr Hain variously included William Morris (Next Century Foundation), Dr Burhan Chalabi (an Iraqi born British businessman), and Nasser al-Khalifa (the then Qatari Ambassador to the UK).

Hain moved briefly to the Department of Trade and Industry before returning to the Foreign Office as minister for Europe. He was vocal in advocating joint sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain and was accused of deliberately misrepresenting the situation The sell-out was overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in November 2002. He remains one of the most unpopular politicians ever to visit Gibraltar.

In October 2002, he joined the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales, but continued to represent the UK at the Convention on the Future of Europe. In June 2003 he was made Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal in a cabinet reshuffle, but retained the Wales portfolio. In November 2004 Hain caused controversy among his political rivals when he claimed that "If we are tough on crime and on terrorism, as Labour is, then I think Britain will be safer under Labour".

On 6 May 2005, following the 2005 general election, Hain was appointed as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, retaining his Welsh position also. Although previously a supporter of Irish unity, he has since retreated from this position. In August 2006, his office neither confirmed nor denied press reports that he fell asleep during a meeting with Mr Raymond McCord – a meeting arranged to discuss Mr McCord's concerns about the investigation into the murder of his son Raymond Jr by a loyalist paramilitary group. Lady Sylvia Hermon, MP, who was present at the meeting, told the press that Mr Hain nodded off at least twice.

On 28 June 2007 he was appointed as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in addition to retaining responsibility for Wales.

Deputy leadership bid

On 12 September 2006, he announced his candidacy for the position of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. In January 2007, Hain gave an interview to the New Statesman in which he made his pitch for the Deputy Leadership and referred to the Bush administration as "the most right-wing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory" and argued that "the neo-con agenda for America has been rejected by the people and I hope that will be the case for the future". Hain was eliminated in the second round of the Deputy Leadership election, coming fifth out of the six candidates, with Harriet Harman being the successful candidate.

Resignation following donations scandal

The Guardian newspaper, on 10 January 2008, noted that Hain was being accused of not reporting £100,000 in contributions. It later emerged that a large part of these funds were channeled through a non-operating think tank, the Progressive Policies Forum. A separate £82,000 was reported. On 12 January, Peter Hain released a statement saying that, being busy with his government jobs, it was simply forgotten about, and said it was absurd to think any misconduct took place, and that he would pay back £25,000 of the money.

The list of hidden donations included money from Steve Morgan, who was in charge of the deputy leadership bid, and Isaac Kaye, who had previously donated to the National Party in South Africa, who were pro-apartheid.

On 24 January 2008, he resigned from several posts including his position as Work and Pensions secretary, after the Electoral Commission referred the failure to report donations to Metropolitan Police. He cited a desire to "clear his name" as the reason for his resignation. Peter Hain was the first person to resign from Gordon Brown's cabinet. He was replaced as Secretary of State for Wales by Paul Murphy, and as Secretary for Work and Pensions by James Purnell in a forced cabinet reshuffle.

Peter Hain failed to declare £103,156 of donations to his Labour deputy leadership campaign in 2006. He breached electoral law by declaring less than half of the money his campaign raised. It is understood detectives want to interview him under caution because, as candidate, he was ultimately responsible for all donations.

As the police investigation continued, further dubious financial practices surfaced including employing his 80-year-old mother on a Commons salary of £5,400 a year.

On 3 July 2008, the Metropolitan Police announced that they had referred Peter Hain's case to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Hain is an outspoken critic of nuclear power. Some claim this fuelled a conspiracy to oust him, which then played a significant part in his resignation.


  • Don't Play with Apartheid: Background to the Stop the Seventy Tour Campaign by Peter Hain, 1971, Allen & U ISBN 0-000000-00-0
  • Radical Liberalism and Youth Politics by Peter Hain, 1973, Liberal Publications Department ISBN 0-900520-36-1
  • Radical Regeneration by Peter Hain, 1975, Quartet Books ISBN 0-7043-1231-X
  • Community Politics Edited by Peter Hain, 1976, Calder Publications Ltd ISBN 0-7145-3543-5
  • Mistaken Identity: The Wrong Face of the Law by Peter Hain, 1976, Quartet Books ISBN 0-7043-3116-0
  • Radicals and Socialism by Peter Hain and Simon Hebditch, 1978, Institute for Workers' Control ISBN 0-901740-55-1
  • Policing the Police Edited by Peter Hain, 1979, J Calder ISBN 0-7145-3624-5
  • Debate of the Decade: The Crisis and Future of the Left edited by Peter Hain, 1980, Pluto Press ISBN 0-86104-313-8
  • Neighbourhood Participation by Peter Hain, 1980, M. T. Smith ISBN 0-85117-198-2
  • Policing the Police Edited by Peter Hain, 1980, J Calder ISBN 0-7145-3796-9
  • Reviving the Labour Party by Peter Hain, 1980, Institute for Workers' Control ISBN 0-901740-69-1
  • The Democratic Alternative: A Socialist Response to Britain's Crisis by Peter Hain, 1983, Penguin Books Ltd ISBN 0-14-006955-0
  • Political Trials in Britain by Peter Hain, 1985, Penguin Books Ltd ISBN 0-14-007935-1
  • Political Strikes: The State and Trade Unionism in Britain by Peter Hain, 1986, Penguin Books Ltd ISBN 0-14-007962-9
  • Proportional Misrepresentation by Peter Hain, 1986, Gower Publishing Ltd ISBN 0-7045-0526-6
  • A Putney Plot? by Peter Hain, 1987, Spokesman Books ISBN 0-85124-481-5
  • Ayes to the Left by Peter Hain, 1995, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd ISBN 0-85315-832-0
  • The Peking Connection by Peter Hain, 1995, Lawrence & Wishart Ltd ISBN 0-85315-823-1
  • Sing the Beloved Country: Struggle for the New South Africa by Peter Hain, 1996, Pluto Press ISBN 0-7453-0997-6
  • The End of Foreign Policy? by Robin Cook and Peter Hain, 2001, Royal Institute of International Affairs ISBN 1-86203-131-2
  • New Designs for Europe by Katinkya Barysch, Steven Everts, Heather Grabbe et al, introduction by Peter Hain, 2002, Centre for European Reform ISBN 1-901229-35-1
  • The Future Party by Peter Hain and Ian McCartney, 2004, Catalyst Press ISBN 1-904508-10-3


External links

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