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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Hain: Rebel with new causes
Peter Hain , the new Welsh Secretary
Peter Hain has had a steady rise through government

In many ways Peter Hain couldn't be more different from his predecessor as Secretary of State for Wales.

Whereas Paul Murphy was largely a quiet, efficient politician working behind the scenes to establish the often-strained relationship between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, Mr Hain likes to go about his work in a much more public and media-friendly manner.

Paul Murphy, the outgoing Welsh Secretary
Paul Murphy: 'Behind the scenes'

The sun-tanned MP for Neath (a feat in itself for anyone familiar with the smoggy, rainy skies of the south Wales town) is an ambitious politician as aware as anyone of the power and influence of the press.

Critics call him a self-publicist.

His supporters say he's a consummate and hard-working minister who knows how to get his message across.

If Mr Hain's steady rise through government ranks is anything to go by, his backers, and the prime minister is clearly among them, are certainly more numerous and influential than his detractors.

Hain first came to prominence as a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement's very public protests against the South African rugby tour in 1970 - an intense and headline grabbing campaign that moulded his attitude to politics and electioneering.

Key to his success will be how he sees his role in the new Wales, a new Wales in which the Secretary of State for Wales has relatively few powers and is frequently in the shadow of the Welsh Assembly's first minister.

That the first minister is the equally flamboyant and media-savvy Rhodri Morgan will make this an interesting period for Welsh politics.

Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan
First Minister Rhodri Morgan; New relationship

Although both can claim to be centre-left Labour purists and committed supporters of devolution, their personal relationship was put under immense strain during the first assembly elections three years ago.

Then, Hain was campaign manager for Alun Michael.

It was an often bitter battle in which each camp spoke of and discredited the other as if they were in different parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Then, when he's kissed and made-up, Peter Hain's other problem will be reminding himself not to get too involved in the affairs of Wales.

Issues like health, education and economic development are now the preserve of the Welsh Assembly and, technically, nothing to do with Westminster and Mr Hain - although the purse strings are still controlled by central government.

So, Peter Hain is at last in the Cabinet - but in one of it's least important and lowest profile positions.

Don't expect that to get in his way.


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24 Oct 02 | Wales
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