Peter Hain: A Hagiography

By Daran Hill of Positif Politics

Growing up in Neath, and well connected there with Labour politics during my youth, there was always something rather exotic and special about Peter Hain.
When he was selected well before the by-election that brought him to parliament in 1991, the party locally had realised that in Peter they had made a bolder choice of candidate than had been expected.
He brought history to his selection – not mining history, but a personal campaigning history – which meant he would stand out from the start.
Not for nothing was the by-election campaign framed under the slogan“a strong voice for us”, which in itself recognised his predecessor Donald Coleman (who he, Ed?) as having been anything other than a strong voice.
Campaigning, media-savvy and ruthless, Peter Hain was like a shot in the arm to Labour in Neath and it was a vitality injection which the party itself administered.

I recall a Communist old stager who had stood against several Labour candidates in the past welcoming the arrival of some ‘real politics’ to Labour in Neath, and predicting Peter was destined for cabinet.
It was not a lone opinion.
When Labour returned to power in 1997 Peter went to the Welsh office as deputy to Ron Davies but in reality lead Labour’s ‘Yes’ campaign for devolution in Wales.
The passion and fervour and clear-sightedness which he brought to that campaign was incredible to behold.
I had the privilege of seeing many Labour figures at close quarters during that campaign.
Peter was the most impressive of all.
Anyone who doubts for a moment his personal contribution to that cause should look at the ‘Yes’ majority racked up in Neath-Port Talbot (or at least in the western half of that county arrangement) and realise that the effective local campaign he led, alongside the national one, was second to none.

Yet Peter Hain has never really got the credit he deserved for that work, and beyond, from outside the Labour party.
The Ron Davies brand was always far more palatable to those beyond the tribe.
But the big tent politics of Ron Davies (or even the clear red water of Rhodri Morgan) was not for Peter Hain, which was fashioned to give a narrative of a different kind to the Labour party of Blair.

Because Peter was, is, and always will be a tribal figure.
He speaks in Labour language first and foremost and, in my assessment, over the past fifteen years he has been Labour’s most effective communicator in Labour language in Wales.
I deliberately described him as the best communicator in Labour language in Wales and not the best communicator within Welsh Labour.
Because there is a significant difference between these two things.
Peter Hain may have been a devolutionist but he was also a leading player within the UK Labour party as a whole.
He was a key figure not just in Welsh Labour but for the UK wide party.
Peter Hain was the only Labour MP from Wales to be appointed to a cabinet position beyond Wales or Northern Ireland, during the entirety of the Blair and Brown years.

He was a serious contender to become deputy leader of the Labour party before his campaign collapsed through mismanagement by those trusted to run it.
He was the most senior shadow cabinet member to back Ed Miliband in 2010 before it became more fashionable to do so.
The current leadership is perhaps another thing which is partly his legacy.
Another one is even more definite in my mind; without Peter Hain there would be no assembly.
I worked with him not just on the devolution campaign of 1997, and say with respect and, even after all of these years, a little awe that Neath alone was worth the 6,721 votes that brought devolution about.
He was confident, strategic and articulate in a language and politics that was truly Labour.
Peter Hain was the most significant MP from Wales of his generation and will be a significant player in UK and Welsh Labour for years to come.
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