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Gordon Brown’s Hain statement was “an incompetence”

January 16, 2008

According to BBC on-line news (full article here):

“Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain was guilty of “an incompetence” over donations during Labour’s deputy leader race, the prime minister has said.”

Well how should we judge Gordon Brown’s own competence in the light of this latest contribution, made during Prime Minister’s Questions, to the debate on the Peter Hain funding disclosure scandal?

Firstly he has pointed out that his Work and Pensions Secretary is capable of “incompetence”. That’s not quite the same thing as describing him as incompetent, but it takes a measure of incompetence to do something incompetent and if one has the capacity to do something incompetent once there is a worry that one might do something similarly incompetent again, maybe in the policy arena. Throw in the fact that the word “incompetence” has soundbite stickability, and Hain may soon be wishing his PM had described him as devious and given to deliberate fraud – anything but the perpetrator of “incompetence”.

A far greater instance of incompetence on the part of Gordon Brown is that he has made his comments ahead of the investigation into the Hain affair by the Commons standards committee and the Electoral Commission.

His words:

“It was a mistake that was made. It was an incompetence that he has readily admitted to,” he said.

“This now goes before the standards committee in the House of Commons, and before the Electoral Commission.

“And I believe they will understand that this was a failure, that there was no corruption involved, that there was no illegal donation made, and I hope that they will be able to accept his apology.”

It is one thing to stand up for one of his ministers but quite another to attempt to interfere with the proper workings of Parliamentary oversight, and Gordon has overstepped the mark. He is clearly trying to pre-empt due process and steer both those bodies towards letting his pal off. That is undue and inappropriate use of his influence, and he can expect considerable flak for it, not to mention a bloody nose from the committees concerned for sticking his oar in.

Gordon is not famous for his stunning PMQ performances but this one can only be described as utterly incompetent.

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One comment

  1. I think part of the problem is that you don’t normally talk about “an incompetence”. Rather, incompetence is an abstract noun used to describe a permanent or at least on-going standard of performance. Certainly you can refer to “an example of incompetence”, but that is suggestive of an event which is exemplary of a deeper condition.

    In other words, Brown cannot really use a term like “an incompetence” without hinting at there being a permanent state of incompetence which gave rise to the specific instance.

    Yes, I know I’m bandying semantics…



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