Peter Hain’s Valedictory speech in the Commons

Speaking in the House of Commons today, Peter Hain gave his valedictory speech, his last act as a Member of Parliament.

The veteran politician and campaigner reflected on almost a quarter of a century in Westminster politics, paying tribute to his friends and family for the love and support which sustained him as an MP.

Joining in with other retiring Labour former cabinet members such as Gordon Brown & Jack Straw, the valedictory speeches followed an unusual and emotional day in the Commons.

You can read the full extract of Peter’s speech below:

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Mr Speaker, having served for 24 years, may I commend your role as in my view the greatest reforming Speaker in memory, by making the Commons immensely more user and citizen-friendly, and especially for the way in which you have enhanced Back-Bench influence? I thank all the Commons staff, including our excellent Serjeant at Arms and especially the Doorkeepers, with whom I have had a specially close relationship since I invited them in to share a few bottles of wine—South African wine—in the Leader of the Commons’ office.

I thank my constituents in Neath and Neath constituency Labour party for their tremendous loyalty and support. I was a Pretoria boy, but I am proud to have become a Neath man. When I first arrived I was shown into a local primary school, Godre’r Graig school in the Swansea valley: “This is a very important person to meet you, class.” A little boy in the front row put up his hand and asked, “Do you play rugby for Neath?” Clearly, he had his priorities right.

I have been privileged and fortunate to have the very best friend anybody could have in Howard Davies of Seven Sisters, what he calls God’s own country, in the Dulais valley in Neath. I first met him in February 1990, a former miner who was lodge secretary at Blaenant colliery during the heart-rending year-long strike in 1984-85. My first agent and office manager, Howard has always been completely loyal and supportive, but privately frank and direct—priceless virtues which I commend to anyone in national politics.

Having come from a world of radical protest and activism, I never expected to be a Minister for 12 years. It began when Alastair Campbell unexpectedly called and said, “Tony wants to make an honest man of you.” Some former comrades on the left were disparaging, but my response was, “I’ve never been an all-or-nothing person. I’m an all-or-something person.” I am proud of many of the achievements of our last Labour Government, some of which I helped a little with, including bringing peace to Northern Ireland and devolution to Wales.

However, there was a tabloid columnist who described me as the “second most boring member of the Cabinet”. My right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling), the former Chancellor, came top. At least that was more civil than the editor of Sunday Express at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle, when I led campaigns to disrupt whites-only South African rugby and cricket tours. He said: “It would be a mercy for humanity if this unpleasant little creep were to fall into a sewage tank. Up to his ankles. Head first.” That was nothing compared with the letter bomb I received, fortunately with a technical fault in it, or being put on trial for conspiracy at the Old Bailey for disrupting South African sports tours, or being charged with a bank theft that I knew nothing about, which was later discovered to have been set up by South African agents.

Despite serving as an MP and Cabinet Minister, and remaining a Privy Councillor, I have not changed my belief that progressive change comes only through a combination of extra-parliamentary and parliamentary action. We know that from the struggles of the Chartists, the suffragettes, the early trade unionists, anti-apartheid protesters, the Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Fascism activists confronting groups such as the National Front and the British National party, and Greenpeace activists inspiring fights against climate change.

If I am asked for advice by young people, who often ask me, “Can you tell me how to have a career in politics?” I say, “It’s not about a career; it’s about a mission.” We should never be in it for ourselves, but for our values. For me, these are equality, social justice, equal opportunities, liberty and democracy in a society based on mutual care and mutual support, not the selfishness and greed now so sadly disfiguring Britain. These values underpinned the anti-apartheid struggle and brought me into the Labour party nearly 40 years ago, but nothing I was able to achieve as an MP or a Minister was possible without the support of my family—my wife Elizabeth Haywood, a rock to me, my wonderful sister Sally, her daughter Connie, my sons Sam and Jake, and their mum, my former wife Pat.

Above all, I am grateful to my mother Adelaine and my father Walter, for their values, courage, integrity, morality and principle. My mum when in jail on her own listened to black prisoners screaming in pain. My dad was banned and then deprived of his job. They did extraordinary things, but as Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others.”

After 50 years in politics some might say it is time to put my feet up, but I have been lucky to have the best father in the world, and he told me in the mid-1960s when I was a teenager living in apartheid South Africa, “If political change was easy, it would have happened a long time ago. Stick there for the long haul.” That is exactly what I will continue to do after leaving this House.

Mr Speaker: I thank the right hon. Gentleman.

Hain Supports UAF Wales

Former Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain MP is one of many high profile community figures to provide his signature on an open letter released by Unite Against Fascism Wales  giving public backing to the Muslim communities of Cardiff.

Mr Hain, who is a patron of UAF, is joined by Andy Richards the regional secretary of Unite, Roman Corria of the Cardiff Trades Council and Cardiff County Councillor Cecilia Love in signing the letter.

In the letter, UAF Wales argue that “no apologies are necessary” from the Muslim community leaders in Cardiff who cannot be held accountable for the actions of the three individuals, believed to be Aseel Multhana, his older brother Nasser and Reyaad Khan.

Instead they argue that the rise of Islamophobia, primarily through fringe right-wing Fascist groups but sustained by media outlets has alienated too many young Muslim men, driving them into the hands of welcoming extremist groups such as ISIS.

It states: “Not a week goes by without an anti-Muslim demo somewhere in Britain. Fascist groups are allowed to demonstrate while young Muslims are subject to harassment. The increased use of racism in the European elections raises the spectre of racism being made acceptable in an accepting and diverse society.”

You can read the full statement of the letter here.


No BBC Platform for Racists and Fascists

Former Secretary of State for Wales and anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Hain MP has criticised BBC Wales for their decision to televise a debate between minority parties in Wales which includes the British National Party and Britain First.

BBC Wales had invited the Green Party, NO2EU, Socialist Labour Party, the Social Party of Great Britain, the BNP and BF to participate in a televised debate ahead of the European elections in an effort to give minority parties in Wales television coverage.

However, in a bold decision the Green Party and NO2EU refused to share a platform to debate with BNP and BF while the SLP and SPGB accepted the opportunity.

Now Unite Against Fascism are calling for a protest to be held on 11.30 Wednesday May 14th outside the BBC Building in Llantrisant to demonstrate against the organisations decision to invite the BNP and BF.

The MP for Neath said: “I have spent much of my life fighting against the fascist views of these rancid organisations and I hope BBC Wales will see sense in this matter and remove their invitation to the debate.”

“I have followed their campaigns for the Euro elections closely over the past few weeks and each and every stunt and gimmick they have employed to increase their publicity has made me sick.”

“There is no hiding from the fact that these parties feed on racial hatred and thrive when they can sow malice and poison among our communities.”

“Whenever racist and fascist groups are given a platform for their poison, the number of racial attacks rises locally. The BBC should have no part of this.  They are giving legitimacy to racism and fascism by lining such groups up alongside democratic parties like the Greens. The idea that the BF and BNP will be able to spread their filth at the invitation of the BBC is intolerable.’


As well as Mr Hain, Joint Secretary of the UAF Weyman Bennett also voiced his criticism of BBC Wales’ decision saying: “It is disgraceful, these Islamaphobic and racist parties should not have been invited to participate in this debate. They use and promote violence as a means of political activism and I struggle to understand how they are deemed fit to speak on such an important stage as this.”

“At the end of the day they are holocaust deniers, willing to manipulate anything to make a political point, they thrive on division.”


Stand up to racism and fascism Wales demo

Neath MP Peter Hain has called for people to stand up against racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of minorities by joining the Unite Against Fascism Demo in Cardiff on UN Anti-Racism Day, 22 March 2014.

A day of action against racism has been called across Europe to coincide with the marking of UN Day Against Racial Discrimination in 2014, with eyes on the European elections in May.

Already in most European countries parties of the right, centre and even the traditional left are allowing the terrain of these elections to be dominated by racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and the scapegoating of minorities—Muslims, immigrants, Roma, Black and Asian communities.

Calling for people to join the demo Mr Hain said, ‘Across Europe the fascist and populist racist right are on the rise. From the violent Golden Dawn in Greece, the anti-Roma Jobbik in Hungary, the Islamophobic Freedom Party of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands to the Front National in France, these forces are encouraging hatred, fear and prejudice in a frightening wave across the continent.

‘In Britain the far right is hoping for gains in the Euro elections. The British National Party (BNP) is seeking the re-election of Nick Griffin in the North West and Andrew Brons is seeking re-election in Yorkshire and the Humber. The Tories and UKIP look set to try to play on the fears peddled by the far right to promote an anti-foreign, anti-Europe mentality.

‘Just like anti-fascist stood up to Mosley and his blackshirts at Cable Street in 1936 we need to stand up against this extremism now and not let the hatred rise in our communities.’

Vile Racist Attack in Neath ‘A Shameful Ugly Stain on Community’ says Hain

The vile racist attack on the Mosque in the quiet Neath village of Tonna and the ensuing violent attack on two white local residents who sought to protect the Mosque is a shameful, ugly stain on a community proud of its caring reputation.

Tonna, a quiet village with a reputation for caring and tolerance, has been shocked to the bone.  It is a shameful, ugly stain on the local community.  We will not tolerate Islamaphobia or racism in our communities.  But I am proud of the two local residents who sought to restrain the young man during his attack on the Mosque. The fact that he turned and attacked them violently just shows what an unspeakably vicious incident this was.

I have spoken to the local Police Inspector and I am reassured that the Police will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the man responsible is brought to justice and that such vicious racist thuggery is not tolerated.  I am absolutely horrified at what happened and it just shows that racism lurks under the surface of even the most respectable neighbourhoods in our country.  Politicians of all parties must provide a strong lead in fighting it.