THOSE who wish Gordon Brown well will have given a qualified welcome to the opinion of the leading article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph that “Gordon Brown's government is some way off having the smell of death that hung over John Major's Tories after Black Wednesday, but many more weeks like this and it will be getting perilously close to acquiring it.” On the other hand, it is difficult to agree with the newspaper's related judgement that Peter Hain's “belated resignation” was an example of Labour's “institutional dither”. When the Hain issue first became a public issue the prime minister quickly said that any government action should wait for the Electoral Commission to look in detail at the facts of the case and to make its judgement known. This was the correct approach, especially since at that point many facts were still in dispute, and it was a far better way of handling the situation than an instant prime ministerial verdict or reference to the Cabinet Secretary to conduct an inquiry. In the event that the Electoral Commission were to decide that rules had been breached, it had two options; to reach a sanction- less verdict of misconduct itself or to ask the police to investigate the case further. When it took the latter course, Mr Hain immediately accepted the serious implications of the turn that events had taken and offered his resignation. It remains to be seen what conclusion the Metropolitan Police will reach.


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