Thursday, March 10, 2011

Countdown for Hague?

Poor old William Hague. A few years back, he was the golden boy of the Conservative Party, destined to lead them back to power. Then he fell from grace, one of the Tory leaders ground down by the Blair machine and he returned to the backbenches and made some money before reappearing in government as Foreign Secretary - a senior office of state, to be sure, but one that is usually relatively sidelined unless crisis strikes and then tends to become head of blame. Even so, there were some - myself included - who wondered whether last May might have had a different result with Hague as Tory leader or if Foreign Secretary would indeed be his final hurrah as a senior politician. Increasingly, it looks as though the end may be nigh.

After last year's peculiar matter of his advisor and snide comments about their relationship, the past couple of weeks have been pretty painful for him - there was the claim (swiftly reversed) that Gadaffi was en route to Venezuela, the embarrassment of the botched airlift from Libya and then we had the debacle of the weekend operation that went badly wrong, leaving a small group of special forces held prisoner by farmhands. It is interesting that this operation was authorised by the Foreign Secretary, indicating that it was primarily an SIS job, although the PM has belatedly given cover to his rather beleagured Foreign Secretary today during PMQs. You would think that landing a group of heavily armed special forces troops in the middle of a civil war would be a matter for the PM, but apparently not.

And now we have the spectacle of people briefing against him. In the Guardian
since last September Tories believe that Hague, who lacked the killer instinct of his predecessor David Miliband from the day he took the job, appeared to have lost his mojo'
Quentin Letts in the Mail
...this William Hague is at present finding it hard to land a punch. He looks pale, peaky, even (some say) past it.

Now, in the latest twist of his curiously oscillating political journey, there is speculation about whether he will be in his post for much longer. Politics is turned on its head. Hague, a master of ridicule, is ridiculed. Seemingly calm and solid, he has become part of a damaging narrative for the Government as a whole that poses potentially lethal questions about its competence... Even some of those inside No 10 who are admirers of Hague are beginning to wonder what is happening. They are not angry, nor do they go out of their way to target him. But one or two are a little bewildered as to why he has stumbled.
The Mail reports that an understudy waits in the wings,
Yet senior officials were openly speculating about Mr Hague’s future yesterday. Sources said that Mr Cameron was poised to promote Mr Mitchell when Mr Hague appeared about to renounce frontline politics last year after revelations he shared a room with a male aide. A well-placed source said: ‘Andrew Mitchell is very well thought of and familiar with all the issues. He sits on the National Security Council. He would have been sent over last year if William had gone and he’s still the man.... William has lost his mojo. He seems tired and often unengaged. He just doesn’t seem that interested.’
When the Foreign Secretary is questioned by the press about his own energy for the job while meeting with the Palestinian President, you start to wonder whether his time is up. Somebody senior within his own party clearly thinks it is, which is why there is a sudden splash of negative stories, all bearing the fingerprints of his own colleagues.

Yet, there is a wider issue of competence, one that we have seen raised by Ed Miliband and others in recent days and it is a potentially dangerous one for the government. There has been a series of cock-ups - Gove and his ever-changing list of cancelled school projects, Hague, Spelman and the forests, Gove and books, Cable and Murdoch, Gove and school sports, Clegg on virtually any subject of consequence.... All this in less than twelve months, remember. This is not just the vagaries of events, this is symptomatic of a wider problem in this government - they simply aren't up to the job.
Over at the Indie, Steve Richards gets in the game

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

IMHO it's Clegg who's looking pale, peaky and past it.

If we must be led by a Tory, I'd far rather it were Hague. He has dignity and gravitas that CaMoron can only dream about.