PETER Hain put himself out of his misery yesterday by resigning from Gordon Brown's cabinet. The strain he has been under in recent weeks has shown in his normally composed and confident face. The decision of the Electoral Commission to refer to the Metropolitan Police the matter of unreported donations to Mr Hain's campaign for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party left him with little option, even though he could have argued that the Met has not yet decided whether there is a case to answer. But that would have been clutching at straws at a time when there is growing public concern about slack standards in all political parties over funding. The police are already investigating the 600'000 pounds donations made to the Labour Party through intermediaries of David Abrahams, while Harriet Harman, who won the Labour deputy leadership campaign, has had to return one 5'000 pound donation and apologise for failing to register a 40'000 pound house loan she used to fund her campaign. Meanwhile George Osborne, the Conservative shadow chancellor, is waiting to hear what the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has to say about indirect donations to his private office. The contrast between these modest sums of money and the millions of dollars routinely raised and spent by contenders for the US presidency is stark. What seems clear is that in an increasingly complex media world British parties and individuals have difficulty in raising privately the money they need to get their messages across.


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