The UK’s former Europe Minister, Peter Hain, may be a pain to Gibraltarians but I assure you he is no more than that. To pretend he is just boosts his inflated ego which is only matched by his ‘perma-tan’ in intensity.
Hain and I are of an age. If you asked the man or woman on the Clapham Omnibus who he was you would probably get differing answers. People of my generation would probably link him with digging up cricket pitches as part of the anti-apartheid campaign. Others might know him for having been forced to resign in 2008 over 100,000 pounds in unrecorded donations to his deputy leadership campaign. He was the first resignation from Gordon Brown’s government and is today no longer of any importance in the Labour Party. In Wales people might remember the Kenya born MP as being their Welsh Secretary and he still is the MP for Neath. The majority will just shrug their shoulders and say “who?”
Of course the reaction to Hain in Gibraltar is very different. As Europe Minister he was the public face of the Blair – Aznar policy to bounce Gibraltar in to a joint sovereignty deal with Spain in 2001. One of his profiles gives him the accolade of being “one of the most unpopular politicians ever to visit Gibraltar.” He remains so to this day.
Yet the fact was it wasn’t a Hain policy but part of the wider deals between Blair and Aznar which involved the Iraq War. Hain might like to claim credit but he was just the bag carrier: It was Blair and his Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who bossed the UK’s foreign affairs; Hain who was never an effective minister didn't get a look in.
Ironically Hain might be looking at us right now as he tops up his perma-tan at his Estepona home. He boasted in his autobiography how his wife is almost mistaken for being Spanish, wishful thinking perhaps.
So it should be no surprise to anyone that Hain should pop up on the BBC Radio Four Today programme on Tuesday to still peddle the Blair – Aznar policy of joint sovereignty. Needless to say he couldn’t resist insulting our politicians and indeed the Gibraltarian people in the process.
Hain had his couple of minutes of belated fame but caused a backlash in the process. Today’s Labour Party in many ways wishes Blair had never happened. I read a profile in the Evening Standard (or whatever it’s called now) of the Labour candidates who hope to succeed Glenda Jackson as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn. Asked which Labour policy they most regretted all without exception stated the Iraq War – Blair’s War.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, and his Europe Minister, Emma Reynolds, have both spoken out in the past to stress their party’s commitment to Gibraltar on the same basis as the present Conservative – Lib Dem Government. Gibraltar would be as secure under a Labour administration as it is now. The person who is out of step with reality is Hain.
After Hain’s remarks on Tuesday he earned a rebuke from Hadleigh Roberts who is one of the Labour candidates in the SW England and Gibraltar six-seater constituency to be contested next May. Curiously I first met Hadleigh at last year’s Labour Party Conference and featured him in Panorama as a pro-European socialist, one to watch for the future. It never occurred to me at the time that one day he could be one of our Euro MPs.
On the Hain blast from the past Hadleigh had this to say: ‘The Labour Party continues to respect the Gibraltarian right to self-determination and their right to remain under British sovereignty. To that extent, Peter Hain’s comments on joint-sovereignty were not a description of current Labour policy. We remain convinced that the current tension must be resolved through dialogue, engagement and respect for the rights of Gibraltarian citizens. This dialogue must take place through the trilateral forum, which Labour created when in office. It is regrettable that the current Spanish central Government is the only party that refuses to participate in the trilateral forum.’
You can’t be clearer than that. We just have to accept that Hain is a Pain who lives in Spain – and ignore him.
(Photos: top – Peter Hain, bottom – Hadleigh Roberts)