Sunday, 5 September 2010

Don’t be vague; say goodbye to Hague


William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, is going through a ‘little local difficulty.’ Though married, there have been persistent rumours on the internet that he has a gay past, fuelled by the fact that he shared a room with a male aide half his age during the general election campaign earlier this year.

This suggests to me one thing and only one thing: that for a senior politician he is extraordinarily naïve, a bear of very little judgement, a bit of a liability given the responsibilities his office carries. Perhaps, on reflection, it suggests something else: that there was nothing in the least untoward in his sleeping arrangements; that he is definitely not homosexual. If he was he and the aide, who has since resigned, would surely have been a lot more discrete. Surely, they would?

But there are other things I have to say here, other things I’ve been reflecting on after reading the coverage of this story in the weekend press. What I am about to write makes me far from comfortable, because I would rather not do or say anything that would in an any way compromise the government of David Cameron. Read on at your peril but let me rush to my conclusion by saying that I think Hague, now aged forty-nine, is in the grips of a mid-life crisis, except in his case it began when he was sixteen, a crisis that raises serious questions about his state of mind and his capacity for high office. It’s now an open question whether he is fit to continue as Foreign Secretary.

To begin with I care nothing at all about his sexual preferences. While the rumours must be hurtful for Ffion, his wife, he can sleep with Men, Martians or Moonies if he pleases: it would not make a bit of difference to me so long as it had no bearing on the conduct of his public office (well, OK, I might worry slightly about the Moonies.)

Also I should say that I quite admire Hague as an intellectual and a writer. He is as passionate about the political history of the eighteenth century as I am about that of the seventeenth, and has written commendable biographies of William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. I just wish to God that he had grown up, showed as much maturity in public life as he does in the life of the mind.

Now none of this matters. His whole career has been called into question less by the internet rumours - all so much stupid and malicious fluff - more by his public rebuttal of these rumours, rebuttals in which he made some deeply personal and wholly unnecessary revelations about his marriage. His wife, he said in his official statement, has suffered numerous miscarriages in their frustrated attempts to have a child. I could make no sense of this at all. Yes, I felt sorry for them, but what on earth was the relevance of this information?

Writing in The Telegraph on Saturday Simon Heffer immediately sent the point into sharp relief: the wholly gratuitous statement about her miscarriages was an abominable abuse of her in the interests of his political career. More than that, the sub-text was blatantly clear – I’m just another one of the lads; I can get a woman pregnant heaps of times; I’m no homo.

Yes, I’m sorry, it’s appallingly distasteful, but it’s evidence of his mindset and his insecurity. This is the same man, a middle-aged, baseball-cap wearing perpetual teenager, clearly uncomfortable with his baldness, who claimed, when he was leader of the Tory Party, that he drank fourteen pints of beer a day as a teenager. I’m William Hague, I am; I’m one of the blocks; I can drink fourteen pints a day; I can get women pregnant; I’m from oop north.

This is the key, that and the fact that he has been trying to live down a nerdish appearance at the Conservative Party conference when he was sixteen. In the same edition of The Telegraph Damian Thompson, a contemporary of Hague’s at Oxford, described him in his student days as a ‘professional northerner’, one of the wisecracking Yorkshire lads who could even charm baby-eating members of the Socialist Workers Party.

There was no irony here; the article was sympathetic and supportive, but Thompson has given away more than intended about Hague and his self-perception. What on earth is a ‘professional northerner’? Is there a qualification, perhaps? I’ve never heard anyone described as a ‘professional southerner’, so it’s clearly no more than a badge of condescension, one that Hague seemingly wears with a degree of pride, fourteen pints a day and on and on. Forgive me; I’m just a sharp-talking professional Surrey girl with a sauce of London spice, fourteen Pimm’s a day, don’t you know.

The whole thing is such a massive joke, a joke made by Hague about Hague, a joke at his expense. The rumours were nothing; his sexuality is nothing; his statement and his conduct are everything. Yes, it began as a little local difficulty but he has allowed it to spread rapidly. I no longer believe that England’s foreign relations are safe in this man’s hands, both because of the weakness of his character and the weakness of his judgement, compounded by his personal vanities and insecurities.

William, take your baseball cap and your naff wrap-round shades and go. Depart; I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!

42 comments:

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  2. I'm afraid sympathy was overtaken by anger after I read Heffer's piece. You are right, he doth protest too much.

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  5. I missed the Duncan piece. I'll have another look. Yes, they probably should. Promiscuity is fine; immaturity is not. :-)

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  8. I thouught Heffer's article was low even for him.

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  9. David, I thought the point effectively made. For me it put matters in perspective. There seems to be no concept of decency and honour in contemporary political life.

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  10. I basically agree with this, Ana.

    A dignified silence may just have won the day, but he has been astonishingly guilty of the most appalling misjudgement.

    A great shame, an intelligent and sincere man, in my opinion.

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  11. Yes, Araminta, it really is a great pity. I just wish he was more comfortable with himself.

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  13. Adam, here's the link to the camp baseball cap pictures www.dailymail.co.uk/.../Foreign-Secretary-William-Hague-leave-baseball-caps-teenagers.html

    There is actually a sequence of pics. After he spots the photographer first the cap comes off and then the shades before he appears in full slaphead glory. :-)

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  15. It's just under the main Mail link but if you don't see it the story, by Vanessa Allen, appears under the heading Memo to Foreign Secretary William Hague (age 49): Leave baseball caps to the teenagers.

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  17. Homosexual, what homosexual? Oh Hague, you mean. Big mistake; they don't do gays oop north. :-)

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  19. I've an idea for a musical, one about gay miners, all sorts of lovely song and dance routines underground. It should go down well in Barnsley. :-))

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  22. I hope Mr Hague stays. I loathe witch hunts.

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  24. David, I'm not very fond of them myself. I hesitated before adding any fuel to the fire but there were things that had to be said. I really do quite like Little Willy. It's such a cliche but he truly is his own worst enemy. I wish he would come to terms with what he is, a bald, middle-aged man. It's not so awful, is it? :-)

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  27. I think we should return to eighteenth century styles. Willy would look super in a peruke.
    :-))

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  29. I think, as you have commented, the most frightening aspect of this whole wretched business is the incredible naivety of a man who is supposed to be one of Britain's senior politicians.

    I also feel desperately sorry for his wife who seems to have been forced into one of the 'supporting cast' roles - poor woman,

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  30. Hello Ana
    I am afraid I do not agree with you here. Not at all. Why are we focussing so much on Mr. Hague, the Foreign Secretary's personal life? There have been some great men in history who had feet of clay in personal matters. As it is, I do not think his explanation was over the top. What it displayed was that he is a sincere man who has not yet mastered the oily, unctuous ways of spin.

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  31. Please, Shermeen, don’t ever be afraid to disagree with me! I’m being hard on him, I know, but that’s because I had a higher opinion of him than I have of a great many other politicians. I’m disappointed not simply because he has shown himself to have feet of clay but because he used, yes, used, his wife as a cover, for what I’m not completely sure other than for his own vulnerable and uncertain ego. I expected more.

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  32. Shermeen

    I suppose it depends on whether or not Mr Hague's wife knew beforehand what he was going to say. Maybe she agreed with him. Maybe they discussed what to say. We shall most likely never know.

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  33. Ana, good evening and I agree with Amicus and Shermeen.

    How old are you? How much do you want children? How hurt would you be by allegations about your sexuality? Probably not a lot in the last case, but you come from a different generation of which we older oldies know not a lot.

    How old are Hague and Ffion? How much do they want children? How many miscarriages has Ffion had? Who cares about WH's sexuality?

    I neither know nor care about the answers to any of these questions and I am somewhat disappointed that both you and the boy Garrie seem to think that they are of any relevance in the great scheme of things.

    And I haven't even started to get upset yet about the slapheadist, ageist crud that the two of you are indulging in here, in my opinion.

    Total 'X' Factor, 'Big Brother', short-term interest drivel that typifies so many of the younger generations, as far as I am concerned. Not a problem and sometimes a joy. Been there, done that and sometimes wish that I could go back there again.

    Does not alter the fact, in my opinion once more, that if Winston Churchill had been trying to make his way in the modern, instant world, you lot would have had him up against the nearest brick wall and toast before he ever got even close to the greatness which he eventually achieved.

    Still think that Hague has a lot to offer our country.

    Sorry you left MyT but totally understand. Best wishes to you and to the boy Adam.

    Yours aye

    John Mackie

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  34. John, you mustn’t be concerned about the slaphead comments; it's just a bit of light banter. Just as the man with the comb-over invites unwanted humour so does William and his obvious sensitivity over his baldness. There is always and edge of cruelty to such humour, I confess, but no malice, certainly not on my part.

    In general I'm having fun at Hague's expense, though I do admire him in some ways. I think he could have done so much more to raise objections over the ratification of Lisbon.

    Yes, I am young, I'm only 24, but I think I show greater maturity than dear William. Perhaps his vulnerability is a male thing? If I were his wife I have to say I would have been outraged by the wholly gratuitous release of such painful personal details. If I were Ffion William would not need a baseball cap; he would be carrying his head. :-)

    As far as My T is concerned I could no longer share that platform with one particularly filthy individual, an unimaginable low-life, not something I expected on a site associated with the Telegraph.

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  37. Hello again.

    Thanks for the remarkably swift replies, Ana x 1 and Adam x 2. Such a joy to be so young and so full of fire. Keep the faith.

    Ana, I suppose what I'm trying to say, in part, is that I want to believe that he talked to Ffion before he said a word in public and that they agreed every syllable that he uttered.

    Been married nearly 40 years myself to the best friend that I will ever have and it's what I would have done in his baseball cap. If he did not, then Hell mend him and their sham of a marriage and just call me a dreamer!

    Adam, we got elected in May 2010. We hope to be still there in five years. Please give him and this government a wee bit more time? I still think that he is honest, principled and intelligent,albeit self-evidently and determinedly slapheaded.

    Events, dear boy, events in re your analysis of his present stance. I trust that he might get it rightish within a reasonable political time scale.

    And it wasn't Stephen Fry who first told the tale. Story known long before he imposed himself on the national psyche as the Oscar Wilde of the present youth of this country.

    They were not sleeping but quite active, if truth be told. The man was a Grenadier Guard and it was only 23 degrees Fahrenheit, so not that cold at all and they were, I repeat, quite active by all accounts. Apart from that, you appear to have the gist of the tale.

    And, by the way, pal - 'Attlee generation'? I was -4ish when he came to power in 1945 and 1 year and a few months when he got emptied. May you be forgiven!

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  38. Ah, John, you've taken the plunge, or is it an old venture? I'll come and have a look. Before I do let me just say that I, too, want this government to last. The alternative is just too, too dreadful. But I don't think we do it any favours by glossing over the faults. Hague showed really bad judgement here, compounded by bad form. It worries me when politicians, invariably male, attempt to hide behind their partners.

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