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Hain's departure and successor

Here follows an article from new Voices newsletter:

One by-product of the Mandelson scandal was a mini-reshuffle in which Peter
'I fought apartheid, I'll fight Saddam' Hain was shunted out of the Foreign
Office to fight for nuclear power and so on as Energy Minister.

Brian Wilson
Hain's successor at the Middle East section is one Brian Wilson (no Beach
Boys jokes).

The Prime Minister was thwarted in his attempt to make Mr Wilson the new
Secretary of State for  Scotland, apparently, and put him into the Foreign
Office instead.

Mr Wilson has served in the DTI and the Scottish Office. Given his previous
experience as trade minister, it would have made sense for him to take on
Energy at the DTI instead of  Hain. 'That Mr Blair opted instead to put him
in the Foreign Office adds to the view that Downing Street wanted Mr Hain
out.' (Guardian, 26 Jan.)

*Former campaigner
Like Mr Hain, Mr Wilson has a campaigning past to live up to. According to
the Guardian, Mr Wilson once campaigned against US sanctions on Cuba, was in
the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and raised funds for medical support
for Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Unlike Mr  Hain, however, Mr Wilson has not been openly hostile to  the US
son-of-Star Wars 'National Missile Defence' system, a sentiment the Foreign
Office is very nervous about expressing, apparently, in case it is taken as
a dig at Downing St.

*The old Wilson
David Walker described Wilson thus in the Guardian (6 April  2000): 'Brian
Wilson, 51, class of 87. Scot with Scottish seat, ex-journalist. Media
relations temporarily bad, after temper tantrum. Little admin work; hates
Scottish parliament.'

George Monbiot points out that Mr Wilson was an enthusiastic opponent of the
hated Skye toll bridge - before he became a junior minister. In 1995, he
described the bridge as "a shocking story of ideologues using a remote place
for an experiment that they could not have got away with anywhere else". The
toll regime, he announced, was "immoral, unacceptable and unjust"; while the
people of Skye were the "near-monopoly prisoners of... ruthless commercial
interests". (Similar remarks might be made about the economic sanctions Mr
Wilson now presides over.)

In 1996, Mr Wilson joined the demonstrators, marching over the bridge with a
pipe band, and announced that the Tartan Toll Tax (the toll on the new Skye
bridge ) was "an injustice which will not be meekly acquiesced in".

Monbiot writes that 'Soon after the election was won, ministers announced
that scrapping the tolls would be impossible... Brian Wilson told Scotland
on Sunday: "It's just a lie to say that either I or the Labour party
promised to abolish the tolls."

(The local Labour candidate for the 1997 general election told voters, "The
Labour party is committed to work in partnership to abolish the tolls within
the shortest practicable timescale.")

'When the islanders requested that they be allowed to reopen the kyle ferry
service and run it in competition with the bridge, Wilson told them it was a
silly stunt.

'"What hurts us most," John Campbell told [George Monbiot], "is the sense of
betrayal. These ministers were campaigners before they got into power. Now
they're just suits."'
(Guardian, 9 Sept. 2000)

Cuban ships
Mr Wilson has been described as 'brave' for publicly defending the MAI
(Multilateral Agreement on Investments), which disappeared in a welter of
criticism in 1998.

Perhaps he can summon up the same kind of courage to denounce the economic
sanctions on Iraq. After all, the former Cuba solidarity activist   did help
try to secure an order for  12 Cuban bulk carriers for a Scottish shipyard
in 1999. (Guardian, 3 May 1999)

If not, there is always the fact that  Mr Wilson's seat is not safe if the
16% swing from Labour to the SNP seen in the Falkirk West by-election is
repeated in a general election.


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