Like many others, including some of his political opponents, I was initially prepared to give Peter Hain the benefit of the doubt. After all, he was a busy man, with two ministries to run as well as his campaign for the deupty leadership. Overlooking a single donation shouldn't have happened, but everyone can make a simple mistake - although £5,000 looks like a lot of mistake to most of us.
Overlooking 17 separate donations requires the benefit of a great deal more doubt, however. And when the total of those donations added together comes to a whopping £103,000 - more than doubling the expenditure previously declared – the amount of 'benefit of doubt' required is stretched even further.
As if that were not enough, it seems that part of the reason for the non-declaration of these amounts was that these were late donations, only solicited after unpaid bills for the campaign started to arrive. It seems that they not only didn't know how much they had received - they didn't know how much they had spent either.
Five of the previously unrecorded donations were made through a think tank, which, as Betsan Powys reports, seems to have done very little thinking to date. By complete coincidence, it seems to have been set up just weeks after the commencement of Hain’s campaign, and to have been established by a leading figure (whose precise role seems still to be under debate) in Hain’s campaign. By further amazing coincidence, one of the donors to this think tank was another of those involved in managing Hain’s campaign.
Hain’s defence is that he was not involved in the day to day running of the campaign, that he trusted others to do it, and was pre-occupied with his important ministerial jobs. That's a credible defence, but only up to a point. If it’s true, then we have to accept that when he, in all sincerity, signed off a return of donations declaring a total of £82,000, he didn’t realise that his campaign had spent more than twice that, didn’t know what they’d spent the money on during his campaign, and didn’t know that there were a number of unpaid bills which had yet to arrive.
If we believe what he says, then his lack of involvement/ interest in what was being done in his name and on his behalf is truly staggering. It is easy to see why so many believe that his position has become untenable.