The world of Formula One has a link to a new political scandal – the row over donations to the Labour minister and would-be deputy leader Peter Hain.
The minister’s career is on the line over more than £100,000 in donations that he accepted for his Labour deputy leadership campaign in June last year – and then did not declare.
There is no suggestion that the donors behaved improperly, but under rules governing the campaign Hain should have notified the Electoral Commission about their contributions.
He has been required to disclose the names of all that donated the money, the dates of the donations and the amounts provided.
On the list, recorded as having donated £2,000 in an individual capacity on June 6 last year is Williams’ F1 technical supremo Patrick Head.
Many of the donors on the list were influential businessmen and Hain is on record as saying that he solicited many of the donations personally – but then neglected to ensure they were declared, claiming his cabinet job was taking the majority of his attention at the time.
Peter Hain has demonstrated a long-term interest in Formula One racing. He is an acknowledged fan of the sport and in 2006 he was at the British Grand Prix presenting a trophy to Jenson Button.
In his entry in the Register for Members’ Interests he records that “on 7 and 8 July 2007, I received hospitality from the Motor Sports Association at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.”
Towards the end of 2007 he visited the McLaren Technology Centre at Woking and he has also suggested in a radio interview that he would like to see some governmental support for the British Grand Prix.
This isn’t the first collision between F1, finance and top Labour politicians, although it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the tidal wave that hit the sport in 1997.
Then Bernie Ecclestone gave £1 million to Tony Blair’s newly-elected Labour Party, one of the first businessmen to throw his weight so publicly behind the new party of government.
The sport was subsequently exempted from strict new rules governing tobacco sponsorship and Blair, who had won the election amid promises of an end to sleaze, spent months trying to extricate his government from accusations that the two events were connected.