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Torybashing in abeyance – best wishes to William and Ffion Hague

Posted on 2 September 2010 | 9:09am

I’ve always had a bit more time for William Hague than some of the other Tory leaders TB saw off during his leadership of the Labour Party. John Major could never forgive Tony for beating him and likes to think it was all done by spin rather than a leader of real drive and substance; Michael Howard could never resist opportunism or hide what Anne Widdecombe saw as his dark side; IDS seemed a nice enough guy but was never going to be an effective leader of his party; David Cameron had a lot going for him but ultimately failed to win outright in the most benign political circumstances imaginable.

I remember when TB stepped down as PM, and a lot of Tory voices went up to give their verdict, and many tried to belittle or diminish in a very tribal way. Hague just put that big smile on his face and said words to the effect that none of them had ever been able to land a glove on him.

In volume 3 of my diaries (out next summer, volume 2 ((97-99)) out in January … may as well get plugging when everyone is talking Blair and books) I give a good example of Hague’s great delivery and sense of humour. Dome night, Millennium Eve (colourfully described by TB for his fears that a trapeze artist would land on the Queen, and his rage at Charlie Falconer for the fact that the country’s editors and journalists were stranded at Stratford tube station.) As I am getting an ever increasing volume of frantic calls from and about the stranded media, and picking up on TB’s nervousness a few rows in front of me next to Her Maj and Philip, I turn to find William and Ffion Hague are right behind me, and again, the big smile is all over his face and the Northern vowels are turned up to full throttle… ‘it’s all going very well then …’

There is an interesting section in TB’s book when he goes through the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents. PMQs, a weekly event whose dificulties he also describes in colourful terms, was an important place for working them out. With Hague, who took over from Major in pretty difficult circumstances, we reached a general line of attack basically summed up as ‘good jokes, bad judgement.’ This had the side effect of making Hague less confident about using the good jokes, which created further space to highlight often bad judgement.

The judgement referred to relates to the big political calls that he was having to make. But the theme has surfaced again in the light of yesterday’s resignation of his special adviser. Bad judgement, people say, to share a room with an adviser. Bad judgement, they say, to make a detailed statement that takes a rumour circulating on the margins of the internet to the pages and screens of the mainstream media, meaning this story instantly becomes part of the Hague permanent profile.

But, assuming his statement to be true, which I do, not least because he has made it in such unequivocal terms, I am left thinking not just that it might, yes, seem a bit odd to share a room with a young male adviser, but really, why does he have to go into all this in such detail at all? A rumour on the internet, born largely it seems of an unfortunate photo – most politicians are poor at casual clothes – and suddenly he is divulging really private details of his wife’s miscarriages, and having people question his judgement not on policy, which really matters, but on what is essentially media handling of a tricky situation.

Anyway, as many of you know, I am usually willing to give the Tories a good kicking, and often they deserve it. But I wish William and Ffion well.

  • http://twitter.com/chrishansenhome Chris Hansen

    I agree with your judgment on this. Hague has been forced into a corner by his poor choices. He’s had to bare his soul and his most intimate feelings because of it. I like him, almost alone among Tories, as he is funny and thoughtful about politics. But it’s typical of the guy that he would not see the public relations difficulty of sharing a room with a male special advisor, especially one half his age and quite handsome. If his special advisor had been female and half his age, he’d be out on his ear politically and personally right now.

    I presume he will be more careful of his roommates and special advisors in the future.

  • Chris

    Nice one Alastair. Probably one of the few times that I totally agree with every word.

  • Martin Waterhouse

    Very commendable Alastair, I agree with most of what you say. However, leaving aside all the salacious tittle tattle, there still remains some awkward questions for Mr.Hague to answer regarding Mr.Myers appointment.

  • Jacquie R

    The allegations against Hague are as nothing compared to the allegations about Coulson and phone-tapping in the New York Times. This is hugely serious.

  • Olli Issakainen

    They say that if you defend yourself, you accuse yourself.

  • http://www.writehandmedia.co.uk Sonya Thomas

    I think you’re spot about this. He divulged a tad too much detail which was all rather cynical in nature. Heterosexuality and virility equals the ability to impregnate!! Although one can totally understand his mindset.

  • Richard Brittain

    Great blog post. You sum up Hague really well. Nice guy, but never really cut out to be an important political figure.

    I don’t think he was the best choice for Foreign Secretary, because he lacks real charisma. I suppose he is probably an amicable negotiator, though (Theresa May as Home Secretary was probably the worst appointment – I’m expecting some big gaffes by her at some point).

  • Paul H

    A world first for me. In agreement with Mr Campbell.

  • stevo

    Come on Alastair-you are missing the big story today-as needless to say are most newspapers.What is your take on the Andy Coulson story?? Do you think they were tapping your phone?

  • http://twitter.com/echoespaul Paul

    I like William. Another great example of his delivery and sense of humour can be found on YouTube titled “Gordon’s EU Nightmare”. He had both sides of the house in hysterics.

  • http://michael-taggart.com Michael Taggart

    Funny because Hague’s eloquent tribute to Blair always stuck in my head. He was interviewed inside the Palace of Westminster and said of debating with Blair: “It was like trying to nail jelly to a wall.”

    That said, it put me in mind of on of the Thick of It specials when the PM was stepping down and the fat Tory spin doctor tells his people to “praise him, praise him like he’s your dead brother”.

  • Deano

    I agree with you completely. I have never understood the obsession with these kinds of stories. They are circulated and printed without evidence, only innuendo.

    You know as well as I do, that during an election campaign, sleeping arrangements can be odd. I have shared beds with lads on campaign and women young enough to be my girlfriend. At no time has anything sexual been borne from those arrangements…indeed the time I shared a bed with the young lady, the conversation descended toward party leaflet design.

    There is absolutely nothing romantic or lustful about sharing a bed with a woman during an election campaign…trust me

  • NickSmeggHead

    There is nothing about Andy Coulson story on the BBC.

    Are Nick Robinson and his cronies burying any harmful stories against the Coalition?

  • Testyfly

    William is one of those “does what is says on the tin” politicians.

    Stuck up, toffee nosed and a clown.
    He is also the classic bully who revels in abusing others with put downs but never does it without a large back up crew.
    The classic manufactured Tory politician….low on conviction, low on judgement and high on verbal rhetoric.

  • http://www.judithhaire.vpweb.co.uk Judithhaire

    Well while it wasn’t the wisest move for WH to share a room with this guy
    he has now spilled a few too many beans than he needed to, he only needed a vehement Excuse Me and to rubbish the rumours. That said, why did this advisor resign? Everything you’ve said here Alastair is absolutely right and it’s a pity that WH has bared his soul in this way

  • Anonymous

    You hypocrite, Campbell. You write about it just to help to keep the story running. A better thing you could have done is sent a personal letter to Mr Hague not written it in a public blog. Just drop it.

  • NickSmeggHead

    I left two comments on Mr Robinson’s blog re: Andy Coulson, why I’m not surprised that they got removed.

  • Mrdeaglanmacfarland

    I largely agree on this Alastair. I think this matter is for William and Ffion Hague to figure out best they can behind closed doors, away from the public sphere, and schadenfreude.

  • http://www.patrickjames.co.uk/ Patrick James

    Judging by the sympathy expressed for Hague I guess his time is up.

  • Pingback: Q and A on TB’s book for La Repubblica | Alastair Campbell()

  • NickSmeggHead

    This is what got removed by the BBC moderators….

    Re: Tory Spin doctor and phone hacking – It is a shame that we have to rely on investigative journalists from across the pond to keep a check on British media.

  • Robert Jackson

    Maybe this is Nick Clegg’s opportunity to follow your advice after the election to get a proper portfolio and have a real say in the nation’s affairs.

    Foreign Sec would be better for Clegg than where he is now.

  • Anna

    I’ve always felt that William Hague had brains but no judgement. Perhaps he should just had the sense have ignored the tittle tattle. But his wife is clearly in distress and her personal sadnesses must have been compounded by the squalid rumour-mongering on the Internet. It’s a human and admirable instinct to protect those we love – so maybe Hagues’ statement is both understandable and forgivable in the circumstances.

  • Sarah

    Having been there myself on many occasions and driven to the brink of breakdown as a result, my I add my sympathy and regards to Ffion and William Hague. Repeated miscarriages are an agony that few people can fully understand. I wish them both well, and hope that they know that with the right medical care and advice, all can come good.

  • http://twitter.com/kozinuk elsie large

    I fully endorse this article , I am more concerned about Mark Thompson Head of BBC visiting 10 Downing Street . This brings the BBC’s impartiality as a public broadcaster into question How can we accept that what they tell us in the future will be free from any government pressure . I for one will be very sceptical .

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    Internet? I am in UK at present and first saw the advisor story in the the daily mail (where else) over a week ago. A masterly piece of innuendo writing. Angled on Hague’s bad dress sense but complete with huge pics of him walking down the street with the spunky young advisor. ” He (myers) shares Hague’s Yorkshire roots”!

    The question immediately rose in ones mind as to the qualifications of this young appointed advisor?

    I too like William Hague, but bad judgement is an understatement! And it was the Mail wot done it, not the internet.

  • Ralph

    Cameron has “seen off” two Prime Ministers – beat that!!

  • Bert

    how the hell is william hague toffee nosed? don’t be so stupidly ignorant.