FORMER Welsh Secretary Peter Hain has spoken of his “surreal nightmare” as extraordinary evidence has emerged of a dirty tricks campaign to discredit his failed Labour deputy leadership campaign further.
Mr Hain resigned from Gordon Brown’s Cabinet in January, when police were called in to investigate his failure to declare donations totalling more than £100,000 to his campaign.
But in recent weeks, the text of damaging e-mails purporting to have been sent by members of Mr Hain’s campaign team have been circulated. Some have been sent to the Western Mail while others have gone to the political blogger Guido Fawkes.
It now appears that many of the e-mails have been faked.
Mr Hain told the Western Mail yesterday: “Something extremely sinister has been going on here. All sorts of things happened during the campaign which I can’t explain.”
The RSPCA has this week investi- gated the content of some of the e-mails which falsely suggests that one of its employees in Wales was using its premises to campaign for Mr Hain.
They were identified as fakes because they purported to come from an e-mail address which included the domain name @rspca.co.uk.
A check with the charity’s IT department confirmed that the employee concerned could not have sent e-mails from such an address. The domain name included in the charity’s e-mail addresses is @rspca.org.uk.
One of the fake e-mails relating to the RSPCA also suggests that former Cardiff council leader Russell Goodway – who played no part in Mr Hain’s deputy leadership campaign – had offered to allow campaign workers to use his office “after hours”.
Other faked e-mail material purports to show another Cardiff member of Mr Hain’s campaign team attacking Rhodri Morgan and Assembly Cabinet Minister Andrew Davies for their “treachery” in failing to support the former Welsh Secretary in his bid for Labour’s deputy leadership.
The supposed recipient of most of the damaging e-mails, public affairs consultant Andrew Stallard, said he did not recognise their content at all.
Mr Hain added: “I have felt since February last year and throughout the course of my deputy leadership campaign and its aftermath that I was increasingly the victim of scapegoating and dirty tricks.
“Someone has persistently been sending material designed to discredit me to the right wing Guido Fawkes website. Some of the material has also been sent to the Western Mail. In the main it has been fabricated.
“My campaign failed and as a result of this scapegoating and these dirty tricks, I have lost my Cabinet job. The whole thing is a surreal nightmare and I don’t know what is behind it.
“There has clearly been an elaborate operation to create fake e-mails aimed at discrediting members of my campaign team. Many of the statements contained in these faked e-mails are lies. There was never any suggestion that the RSPCA’s office would be used to run a phone bank for my campaign, and if there had been I would have vetoed it. The RSPCA employee (referred to in the e-mails) was not the chair of my campaign in Wales.
“Privately, they supported me, but they never got involved in any activity because they were not asked to. Russell Goodway was not involved at all.
“We had an office in London, which was one of the reasons why the campaign cost so much. You are not allowed to run internal party election campaigns from constituency offices. Everything was done by the book in that respect.
“I haven’t got the faintest idea who is behind this, except to say I have consistently been a victim of dirty tricks and fabricated techniques. There has been a concerted attempt to get the Guido Fawkes website to run damaging stories about the campaign.
“After the surreal trauma I have been through, nothing surprises me any more. Virtually everything that has been written or broadcast about my campaign has not been true.”
The RSPCA said: “This appears to be a flimsy and frankly desperate attempt to smear an innocent person and drag the RSPCA into somebody else’s dispute. This has nothing to do with the RSPCA, and it is extremely sad that anyone would try to use a charity’s name to pursue their own agenda.”