Wednesday, 9 January 2008

From Norwich, the quiz of the week...

Another twist or two to the latest Hain saga. Gordon Brown defended his Welsh and Work Pensions Secretary in the Commons today over the way he funded his failed campaign to to become Labour deputy leader.

We may yet get details of the donations Hain has failed to declare later this week. I've also been talking to Hain's former aide, Phil Taylor - the man who initially ran the Hain campaign until he was replaced by Steve Morgan, whose claim to have been brought in to bring order to chaos raised eyebrows yesterday.

Taylor, now working at a college in Norwich, denies that the deputy leadership campaign was chaotic and blames Morgan for the failure to declare donations properly. He says all donations were declared while he was in charge.

Asked whether The Guardian is correct to state that tens of thousands of pounds in donations were not declared, Taylor said: "Not on my watch. By the time I left we'd received legally and had declared £37,000 of donation and we hadn't received a single penny in donations that was not declared at the time I left, so there was no chaos of any kind."

Taylor decided to break his silence after hearing Mr Morgan's interview with BBC Radio Wales.

"You know it's widely believed there were a number of donations made during that period in June that weren't declared. Now I can't prove that. I don't know that. We need to wait and see what the campaign actually says when they finally publish their list of results but I think it's inconceivable to suggest that the person who ran the campaign throughout that period didn't know that donations were coming in and failed to declare them and at the end of the day, if you choose to run a campaign you have to take that responsibility yourself.

"What I think is very sad is that I know Peter incredibly well. I've worked for him for a number of years and consider him to be a friend and the Peter I know would have had nothing to do with any of this. He is one of the most straightest, honest, decent men that I have ever met and I just cannot understand what went on in that campaign but I can only assumed that decisions were taken by his campaign manager that he knew nothing about because the Peter that I know would never in a million years have ever accepted any donation and not declared it and not followed the rules and in that sense when Peter says there was chaos, that must absolutely be true. That chaos has to be the responsibility of the person running the campaign and that was Steve Morgan."

He insists Peter Hain should not be blamed for the failure to declare donations but acknowledges that as the candidate he is legally responsible.

"I think we'll only know that when we see what is not in the public domain now that should have been declared at the time and what the explanation for that is. What I am clear about is that it won't be Peter's fault in that he won't have known whatever chaos happened in the campaign that led to these declarations not being made in the way they should have been made. That isn't the Peter Hain I know and I know he wouldn't have stood for that.

"So what I'm clear about is that there won't be any guilt attached to Peter personally. You and I both know that politics doesn't work like that and we'll just have to wait and see what the fall-out is when it becomes public about the donations that weren't declared."

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