Native runner arrives from capital with letter wedged in cleft of stick. Two Ministers of the Crown have resigned from the Cabinet: part-time Work & Pensions Secretary Peter Hain and part-time Welsh Secretary Peter Hain. In doing so, something of a benchmark, albeit a high one, has now been set for resignations from this particularly sleazy government.

The immediate trigger for his departure from government was the fact that the Electoral Commission has now referred the matter of his failure to register a large number of donations to his campaign for the Deputy Leadership with the Commission to the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist and Economic Crime Command, as Hain’s statement indicates.

The benchmark thus created is thus set at a very high level: you can be found out in all sorts of indisputable turpitude but you do not have to resign until the Peelers come along and clap the derbies on. On that basis the likes of sleazebag Mendelson, Geoffrey Robinson, David Blunkett et al. would still be in the government. Well, perhaps Mandelson might not be, given his relationship with Gordon Brown.

But there is a downside to this: if the Electoral Commission were now to refer the cases of Harriett Harman or Wendy Alexander to the boys in blue, then they are toast too, the benchmark having thus been set.

Given the nature of the offence under Section 65 (3) of the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which creates an offence of strict liability which is committed regardless of whether it is deliberate or negligent, he should have gone the moment that he admitted failing to comply with the reporting requirements under Section 65 (1) of the Act in relation to the huge amounts of money his campaign received in the latter half of 2007. As it is he has had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the building.

This reflects no credit on Gordon Brown who ought to have acted ruthlessly in removing him from office. As it is he has dithered and wavered, first hanging his Minister out to dry and then damning him with faint praise before letting him go with a less than gushing eulogy when PC Plod looks set to come a-calling. Brown says it is the ‘right and honourable thing to do’, which will come as some surprise to most of us who have long thought that Gordon Brown was himself a complete stranger to the concept of ‘honour’.

In the meantime let us raise a glass to Guido Fawkes who has been on the trail of this creature from the perma-slime lagoon for many months. Guido can with pride mark up a ‘Gotcha’ on the loo wall today.

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