In a criminal trial it sometimes becomes apparent that a state of affairs or a set of facts has been established beyond a peradventure. Notwithstanding the burden on the Prosecution to prove its case, it is said that the state of affairs or set of facts demands an explanation from the Defendant. Peter Hain has reached such a moment.

In the criminal trial the Defendant may find himself advised that he has no alternative but to give evidence and give an explanation. Or, as is his right, he may choose not to give evidence in which case two consequences arise: firstly a clear inference is raised that there is no explanation of the damning state of affairs or set of facts; and, secondly, he opens himself up to extensive criticism before the Jury for not having provided an explanation.

Indeed the Jury will be invited, more often than not, to draw just such an inference: that his failure to explain matters indicates that any explanation would be highly prejudicial to him, at best, or is consistent with guilt, at worst.

This morning Mr. Hain finds himself impaled upon the horns of just such a dilemma. A set of facts has been clearly established. This is that a private limited company called Progressive Policies Forum Limited (PPF) was formed in December 2006, some short time after Mr. Hain indicated he would, in due course, be a candidate for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party.

This company was set up ostensibly as a think tank to advance progressive policies. Since its establishment it does not, however, appear to have held any meetings, conducted any seminars, published any papers, filed any accounts, established a website or, indeed, done anything at all except to receive money from some donors, some or, perhaps, all of which has since been forwarded to Mr. Hain’s Deputy Leadership Campaign.

These in turn form part of the seventeen donations to his campaign which Mr. Hain personally failed to register, in accordance with the law, with the Electoral Commission and, in accordance with the rules of the House of Commons, on the Register of Member’s Interests. Mr. Hain has admitted to the Guardian that he personally solicited most of these donations.

Several of these donations were channelled through PPF in circumstances where it is still unclear if the donors knew or assented to the money being forwarded to Mr. Hain. Some of those whose money went through PPF are the sort of donors whose backgrounds do not readily chime with Mr. Hain’s professed alignment to the left of the Labour Party: the proposition being that had he been seen to be backed by such people it would have both damaged his standing with the left and the unions and made him look hypocritical and thus harmed his electoral chances.

In the event Mr. Hain failed to make any disclosure concerning these donations until the ‘Donorgate’ scandal erupted late last year, long after the time for reporting them had expired.

The inference is that PPF was set up deliberately as a front for accepting, and concealing the true fons et origo of the donations and as a means of channelling ostensibly untainted money to Mr. Hain.

It is the existence, nature and activities of PPF which has raised a state of affairs which demand an explanation from Mr. Hain, an explanation which must provide considerable detail to show that this was not just a bogus front to facilitate the concealment of the true identity of donors. Such detail would be very simple to demonstrate: information about the activities of the company, its meetings, its membership, formation, business and so on, would, given it has existed for some thirteen months, be extremely easy to provide. For example, it must have a bank account: why not provide us with details of it and its operation and transactions which would surely show that it was above board?

No explanation of any sort, adequate or otherwise, has been forthcoming concerning this company. Therefore, in the absence of any or any adequate explanation from Mr. Hain, the only proper inference to draw at this moment is that this was indeed a bogus organisation set up explicitly to conceal the identity of donors and, indeed, to evade the law relating to donations to regulated donees under the Act.

Time is surely running out for Mr. Hain to provide an explanation of the role this company played in his affairs. If he remains unable or unwilling to provide such an explanation, we have every right to draw the most unfavourable inference s concerning his conduct and it must be asked how he can conceivably avoid resignation?

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