I'm the Hen Ferchetan. This is my take on the world through the eyes of Wales. While mostly about Welsh politics (that most famous of dour topics!) I try to scatter some humour around, but I doubt anyone but me will find it funny! Have a read, and if it bores you then feel free to never come back!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

What's Feeding the Media?

I thought it may be time to have a look at the media's contribution to Mr Permatan's continued vulnerability for the chop.

I have no doubt that Peter Hain should have resigned days ago. If the Labour government has done one thing to make my blood boil it is their recent (i.e. last 5 years) complete removal of the idea of ministerial and the acceptance that a minister (or Prime Minister) is justified in doing everything he can to hold on to office. Who remembers the days of Ron Davies, where the resignation letter was handed in before the media even knew there was a story!

Peter Hain is the latest minister to participate in this straw-clutching desperation, but what is quite surprising is the way the media have decided not to let him get away with it. While Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander managed to clutch the straw just long enough for the media to lose interest, this time they just won't let go of Mr Permatan. Hain is now on his 11th day of bad headlines, and there is no doubt that they will continue for some time to come. The question has to be asked, why?

Some have said that Gordie's washing of hands is to blame. Gordon Brown, while declaring full support for Hain, has said that his fate is the hands of the different enquiries. A pretty bizarre stance for the Prime Minister to say, but there we go, it gave the media a big sniff of a scalp. The argument is that it is due to the Prime Minister failing to give his 100% backing that Hain continues to be in trouble. This argument doesn't quite hold water when you remember the headlines when Harman was in trouble. Brown didn't give her his unequivocal backing either, saying that the donations to her could not be justified in any way.

So what other explanation can there be, because remember, Harriet Harman and Wendy Alexander had both broken the law as well, Hain is not unique in the criminality of his (in)actions. I see two plausible explanations.

The first reason is that the media is being fed by admissions from Labourites that Hain's time is up. Some MP's are public about it, many are not. The reason for this is that there was a wide assumption before this scandal erupted that Hain was for the chop soon anyway. The consent seemed to have been that in the next Cabinet reshuffle, expected in the first quarter of the year, Hain would find himself either out of a job or seriously demoted (I assume that in the London media view, seriously demoted would mean "just" being the Welsh Secretary).
This puts Peter Hain in a very different position to Harman and Alexander. Unlike those two, Hain is expendable to Labour. Harman is the recently elected party deputy, Alexander is the recently elected leader in Scotland. Both replaced unpopular predecessors. If they resigned in shame, it would have thrown the party into turmoil. You will remember the feeling at the time that Labour was falling apart at the cracks. Hain's resignation would not leave the same hole, and Labour MP's know this. After all the turmoil and scandal both sides of the New Year, there must be a feeling within Labour that giving the media a scalp would put a line under the whole business and allow Brown to re-start his Premiership.

So yes, the media are being fed a bit more than with Harman, but that can't be the sole reason for their persistence. The other reason seems to be the simple fact that Hain is just not that likable. While many in Wales would have stronger words about him, both good and bad, on an UK level Hain, while not totally dis-liked, is certainly not liked. The numerous jokes about his Permatan shows that there has always been a feeling that Hain is, for some reason, not that popular. The reason most often given is his arrogance and aloofness.
An often-used example of this is his speech to the Welsh politician awards late last year when colleagues and media alike were disgusted by his attitude. But some of the jokes he said at that ceremony were both funny and often used in political circles anyway. I for one have used "Ieuan-Air" many times to describe the North-South Air link. Hain's problem was not his choice of jokes, but his choice of venue. The awards was a cross party event with political differences put aside for the night. Hain did not conform to this, and preferred to be very party political. And for me, that's the worst thing about Hain. He puts himself and Labour first, Wales second. He, like Brynle did the other day, prefers political point scoring to actually helping people. That's a political "quality" that goes down very poorly with both the media and the public.

And that seems to be Hain's downfall. his inevitable resignation/sacking/demotion, it is as much the fault of his £100,000 "memory lapse" as it is Labour's apparent acceptance to offer him as a sacrifice and the general feeling that Hain just isn't that nice a politician.

Update: Want an example of the arrogance that Hain is often accused of, here's a Hain quote from yesterday:

"I have a record in government second to none"
Move over Lloyd George, Churchill and Aneurin Bevan, King Peter is here!

1 comment:

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

"Lloyd George, no doubt,
When his life ebbs out
Will ride in a flaming chariot;
Seated in state
On a red-hot plate
'Twixt Satan and Judas Iscariot.
Ananias that day
to the Devil will say:
"My claim for precedence fails.
So move me up higher,
Away from the fire,
And make way for that liar - from Wales!"

(1920s traditional doggerel) Sadly, Peter Hain doesn't rival this in two senses:

1) he's nowhere near as powerful as the Goat was, so most people have never heard of him and

2) he's not, of course, Welsh - he's a South African who came to Wales because it offered a semi-safe Parliamentary seat where he could nurse a colossal ego and pursue his ministerial ambitions.

Besides, it just doesn't scan the same with "Peter Hain" or "Orangey" instead of "Lloyd George." So I'm afraid Lloyd George can't be like Ananias (see the Acts of the Apostles) and move over for Hain...