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British official quits amid inquiry

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain's Labor Party campaign funding is the focus of the investigation.

January 25, 2008|From Reuters

LONDON — A senior British Cabinet minister resigned Thursday in a row over political donations, prompting fresh criticism of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's leadership.

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain said he was leaving to clear his name after electoral authorities referred to the police questions about the funding of his unsuccessful campaign to become deputy Labor Party leader.

Just seven months into his premiership, Brown is already battling to boost low ratings after a crisis over mortgage lender Northern Rock, administrative blunders and signs of a faltering economy.

The investigation of Hain is the third inquiry about Labor Party funding in recent years.

Brown promoted James Purnell from culture secretary to head the work and pensions department, which is crucial to Labor's economic reputation.

Hain, who was also the secretary for Wales, has denied wrongdoing. He has acknowledged the late declaration of donations of more than $195,000 for his campaign to be elected deputy party leader.

"In view of the decision of the electoral commission today, I have come to the conclusion that I have no alternative but to resign," Hain said in a statement. "I severely and seriously regret the mistake in declaring donations late."

The resignation is the first since Brown succeeded Tony Blair in June, promising a fresh start after Blair's final months were overshadowed by a police inquiry of allegations of illegal Labor funding. No one was charged.

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