British Politics

William Hague: The Right-Winger Who Wasn’t

July 28, 2010

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William Hague: The Right-Winger Who Wasn’t

Tories perturbed by the party’s lackluster election and shacking up with the Ludicrous Democrats were mollified by the inclusion in the Cabinet of William Hague as Foreign Secretary. Since those delicious Brown-defenestrating days, the straight-talking Yorkshire darling of the grassroots has been given an opportunity of setting his own rightwing stamp on the Coalition’s coition.

Hague the Younger was admittedly objectionable, starting with a cringe-making speech to conference aetatis 16, all floppy hair and free trade. Later, there were artfully sideways baseball caps, his max respec’ for Dubya-, Serb-, and Saddam-bashing and, in between all this, utterly unconvincing rhetoric about Britons “living in a foreign land” or us having “three weeks to save the pound.” Such sallies caused 66% of voters in a famous 2001 poll to conclude that the then Leader of HM Loyal Opposition was “a bit of a wally,” and 70% of them to agree that he “would say almost anything to win votes.”

Except, of course, that many party rank-and-filers found his rhetoric utterly convincing. Because he said things they wanted desperately to hear in nice North Country tones, because he performed well at the dispatch box, and because “She” was said to like him, many Tories looked upon “Our William” as Younger Pretender to The Lady. He may have been follically challenged, they murmured, but he was “one of us.”

“His policy is, we are informed, a radical departure from the policies pursued by Messers Blair and Brown. It’s just as well we are told this, as otherwise we might never have known.”


He was acclaimed as leader after the ’97 only to lead them to disastrous defeat in the ’01, after which he went into exile, a Baldie Prince Charlie, from where ensued workmanlike studies of Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. Our William slowly reinvented himself by touring the TV studios and showing us his sores. The Older Younger was soon welcomed aboard the Good Ship Cameron as it set sail towards The Big Society, calling at the islands of Decontamination and Coalition. Finally, after his long and eventful voyage, he is showing us the fruits of his wilderness-garnered wisdom.

His policy is, we are informed, a radical departure from the policies pursued by Messers Blair and Brown. It’s just as well we are told this, as otherwise we might never have known.

It starts off promisingly. The Coalition wants a policy which “unashamedly pursues our enlightened national interest.” “Enlightened” sounds ominous to those able to decipher political code, but he goes on innocuously enough. New diplomatic efforts in the Far East and Southern Hemisphere: combining security and economic interests, preventing nuclear proliferation, a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine, more bilateralism, protecting the “unbreakable alliance” with the US. We know he favors renewing Trident, admires the army and always opposed the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber. So far, he’s a sort of Conservative Cavour.

But then, the Eurosceptic of legend (it was always legend) metamorphoses into a Euroseptic, seeking to expand not just Britain’s role within the EU, but the EU itself. And not just to take in those few renegade European countries that have so far resisted the EU’s proffered possets, but also Turkey—which, he appears not to have noticed, tends to be in Asia. This is no whim, as he is an avid supporter of Conservative Friends of Turkey—a dubious distinction he shares with Defence Secretary Liam Fox, another “rightwinger” manipulated to persuade the grassroots that behind the chinless Cleggerons there are still “some of us” who just might, if we all keep voting Conservative nicely, some day, when the time is right, do something about something.

We are dismayed to discover that “human rights and poverty reduction” are “at the irreducible core” of the new policy. As neither of these irreducible items are ever defined, we are unsure exactly what this means. But it is not reassuring to learn that we are all “beneficiaries” of globalization, and that a Hagueian priority will be to “further that process.”

Using our ideological Enigma machines to crack all these complex ciphers, it soon becomes obvious that the Tory Talleyrand is actually a sort of Toynbee—and that the net effect of his new foreign policy for Britain will be to make Britain even more foreign.

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