Lord Peter Hain: ‘My pal Mandela should be delivering his grave!’ | Politics | News | EUROtoday

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Lord Hain in his office with his treasured Nelson Mandela portrait

Lord Hain in his workplace along with his treasured Nelson Mandela portrait (Image: Jonathan Buckmaster)

When folks contact the workplace of Lord Peter Hain at Millbank House in Westminster, they could be shocked to seek out the life peer himself answering the telephone. “People will ask to be put through to my diary secretary. I say: ‘That’s me’,” laughs Lord Hain in his distinctive South African accent. “Or they ask to speak to my researcher. I’ll say: ‘That’s also me.’ They have no idea that peers get an office – I happen to have a nice one – a PC and an iPad. That’s it. You don’t have any secretarial support.”

To be clear, his workplace is giant with area for 2 laptop desks, a bookcase and low desk. But it’s pretty rudimentary, not dissimilar to what you may discover in a college workplace. It’s definitely not what you may count on for a distinguished former Labour frontbencher whose achievements embrace brokering talks between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party as Northern Ireland Secretary.

That led to the unique power-sharing Northern Irish authorities, ending IRA violence. Lord Hain, who additionally served as Secretary of State for Wales and Work and Pensions, and Leader of the Commons, proved a reputable determine within the peace talks as a life-long anti-apartheid campaigner.

In his workplace, the attention is straight away drawn to a formidable paintings of former South African President Nelson Mandela by his desk. Lord St John of Bletso lately gifted Lord Hain certainly one of 10 limited-edition prints of the unique charcoal drawing by Cape Townbased artist Fiona Goldthorpe.

It’s a considerate reward for somebody who regarded the liberty fighter as a superb pal. Lord Hain says: “I’ve had the privilege to meet kings and queens, celebrities of all descriptions, presidents and prime ministers, but he’s the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met. And it’s because he always cared about people.

“The increased folks get in life, be that the highest of a authorities, a monarchy, a sports activities star or pop star, they have a tendency to retreat into an area surrounded by safety. That by no means occurred with Nelson Mandela. He all the time had time for folks, and abnormal folks as effectively.”

With Nelson Mandela and African Unity Organization Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in 2000

With Nelson Mandela and African Unity Organization Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in 2000 (Image: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP via Getty Image)

South Africa is top of our agenda today for Lord Hain has just published The Lion Conspiracy, the final novel in his ‘Conspiracy’ trilogy.

It covers the illegal wildlife trade across several African countries, including Lord Hain’s birthplace, and the environmentalists trying to stop the criminal syndicates behind it.

Rhino and Elephant were the first two books in the series. Then Lord Hain learnt that lions have “change into extra endangered than rhinos and elephants”.

He explains: “They could possibly be extinct by 2050 if issues go on as they’re. The Lion King and ‘The King of the Jungle’ will change into a historic curiosity for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

There were 200,000 lions across Africa a century ago but that figure is now 20,000. And the majestic large cat, hunted to extinction in 30 out of 50 African countries, is in huge demand for its teeth and paw bones, which are ground down and turned into wine for the nouveau riche of China andVietnam.

“It’s the worldwide legal syndicates who’re paying poor native poachers to kill the wildlife species. They are protected by corrupt politicians who’re getting a kickback,” Lord Hain continues. “It’s not due to local weather change and human behaviour however political corruption and criminality.” Lord Hain says the industry worth billions is “equal to the medicine commerce and human trafficking now”. “Governments do a bit however nearly nothing about it,” he says.

Does that disappoint him? “Yeah it does. I’m indignant about political corruption in my house in South Africa but it surely actually makes me indignant that? if governments wished to do one thing about it – and I’m not simply speaking about London and Washington D.C, but additionally Beijing, Delhi and Moscow – in the event that they actually wished to do one thing about it, you would cease this unlawful commerce. But they do not.”

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Corruption in all its guises underpins Lord Hain’s view of what is wrong with the world. He was born in Kenya but raised in South Africa, the son of anti-apartheid campaigners who were harassed and jailed in 1961 for their activities. Lord Hain’s mother, Adelaine, was the only white person in the public gallery at Nelson Mandela’s trial when he was accused of trying to overthrow the government.

The family fled to London in 1966. A young Peter then led a successful campaign against the South African rugby and cricket tours, still one his proudest achievements “as that was seismic in its affect on the antiapartheid wrestle”.

He was sent a letter bomb in the mail in 1972 and framed for a London bank robbery by the South African secret police. He was later acquitted. Today, amid a wave of corruption and the potential re-election of disgraced former president Jacob Zuma, 81, Lord Hain said Nelson Mandela would “be delivering his grave at what’s occurred to South Africa”.

Mr Zuma stood down in 2018 over allegations of corruption and received a 15-month jail term in 2021 for refusing to cooperate with an official inquiry.

“What Zuma desires to do is to loot once more,” he says. “It’s not about bettering the lives of the tens of millions of poor folks in South Africa. There is not any hazard of him successful however he can create a number of friction, aggravation and disruption in Parliament.

“It shows how far and how fast the ANC’s [African National Congress] standing has fallen. And quite rightly so. As somebody who counted myself privileged to be a personal friend of Nelson Mandela’s, and who idolised him, his legacy has been completely betrayed by all the corruption.”

During his final go to at Christmas, Lord Hain met a lady who had refused to pay a bribe so her daughter might sit a driving take a look at.

“It’s infested the whole of society,” he says. While he was nonetheless an MP, he used Parliamentary privilege to show the position of worldwide banks and British firms that moved illicit funds to Zuma and his corrupt supporters.

“To open a bank account, buy or sell a house, or do almost anything financial in the world, you have to climb through all sorts of hoops to prove who you are and what are the source of your funds,” he says. “Yet international crime and money laundering continues unabated at the level of £2trillion a year.

“Why aren’t our banks and techniques catching these folks as an alternative of constructing life depressing for us simply to do an abnormal every day factor like opening a checking account?” Lord Hain is not without controversy himself concerning financial irregularities. In 2008, he resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary after failing to declare £100,000 of political donations for his deputy leadership campaign within the allotted timescale. He later called it an “trustworthy mistake” and “apologised unreservedly” for his error.

Hain speaking at London rally against Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1977

Hain speaking at London rally against Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1977 (Image: Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

But he also doesn’t believe “Britons ought to stand on some pristine podium”.

“We had a number of corruption in Britain beneath Covid, which has been uncovered,” he says. He also cites the “huge corruption” in Russia greasing the wheels for President Vladimir Putin. Does he think Ukraine can win against its oppressor?

“It’s going to be very troublesome if Donald Trump wins the American presidency as a result of he is already stated he’d withdraw help,” says Lord Hain. “He would not appear to thoughts Putin travelling all around the world.

But that is in Europe’s again yard. What will Putin do subsequent if he manages to defeat Ukraine? Will he threaten Moldova? Will he go for a number of the Baltic States?”

He believes this is a real possibility. “In my lifetime, that is probably the most perilous second for the world – the mixture of the implications of Putin’s aggression, the Gaza- Israeli horror and the implication for a powder keg area, and the local weather emergency. It’s a really harmful world for the time being.”

He has confidence in Lord David Cameron. “For a Conservative Foreign Secretary, he is doing a superb job,” he says. “But there’s a actually severe hazard of this escalating right into a regional warfare which might have world repercussions. Wars usually begin off in an unpredictable and unplanned means. That was the traditional case with the First World War. People usually retaliate in a means that then provokes an unexpected counter. And there is a hazard of a tit-for-tat escalation simply exploding, an actual hazard of that.” In February, he warned the House of Lords none of the lessons of Northern Ireland were being applied to the Israel-Gaza conflict. And he believes Hamas has “been strengthened” in the months since the October 7 terror attack by Israel’s relentless bombardment.

“It frustrates me so much, having been intimately concerned in serving to to resolve the Northern Ireland battle, that individuals appear to assume it was a neater battle to unravel than the present Israeli-Palestinian one. It wasn’t. That went again arguably eight centuries. It was bitter, horrible, affected by terrorism.

“There were horrible atrocities committed and bigotry and prejudice of a terrible kind. And a lot of that you see in the situation now. People will not like me saying it but you will not resolve this problem by fighting or bombing.You’ll only resolve it by negotiating and that’s not a weak thing to do.

“It took braveness for John Major to start out speaking to the IRA management. It took much more braveness for Tony Blair to get the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. You want statesmanship and braveness.”

With US and Irish leaders including President Bush in 2006

With US and Irish leaders including President Bush in 2006 (Image: Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

Labour is headed for almost certain election victory, if the polls are to be trusted. Should Keir Starmer become our next prime minister, does Lord Hain believe he will try to do something different to David Cameron’s even-handed approach?

“Britain shouldn’t be the principle participant right here however we’re an essential one and we do have affect. And I believe that Keir will wish to try to exert that affect in a constructive means, in a inventive means however none of these items are simple,” he says. “He’s a really robust individual and whether or not individuals are pure Labour supporters or not, they see him as a major minister who would do Britain proud no matter what they vote.”

Lord Hain is pressing for the creation of an international anti-corruption court and wants “Britain to guide the push for that” if Labour wins the election.

The climate emergency is his biggest worry. He’s angry about the British farmers unable to claim compensation for their flooded farmland if it’s 150 metres away from a river.

“How are they going to develop the meals to feed our nation? How are they going to do the roles they wish to do? The Government is penny pinching over probably the most ridiculous guidelines,” he huffs.

He’s proud of his achievement in Northern Ireland and helping Wales to win the legislature towards devolved power in 1997.

“It’s fairly laborious being a minister. It’s powerful getting issues modified – you can also make speeches galore, situation coverage papers by the million and cross legal guidelines. Changing issues is way more durable. Government is a course of manufacturing facility, not a supply mechanism. But that is one other topic solely.”

The Lion Conspiracy by Peter HainThe Lion Conspiracy by Peter Hain [Muswell Press]

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