The article below appeared in the Daily Mirror on 5th March 201o and is reproduced here with the full permission of the author Brian Reade.
When you have finished reading about William Hague, you may perceive that Brian Reade is probably not the Chairman of Hague Fan Club – and you would be right.
I have been Socialist-bashing ever since I could open a notepad but for the sake of balance I do believe that we should have an insight into the lives and more-importantly, the characters of all the main players in the forthcoming General Election. In the last year we have all come to learn that what really appears to separate politicians (of any Party) is nothing more than size of wallet plus position on the Odious Scale. Idealism seems to have given way to the ugly spectre of self-interest.
William Hague has had a long history within the Tory Party and as Brian describes below, he is the Conservatives’ Malvolio – having had greatness thrust “up him” rather than “upon him”. He is also one of the few Tories who has proved that there is life after death.
The Daily Mirror has several heavy-duty writers of conviction but I’ve always considered Brian Reade as the most perceptive and incisive . Enjoy some of the most genially-executed knife-work you’ll ever see.
For three decades he was a political joke beyond parody.
William Jefferson Hague, the geeky nerd who spent his youthful nights studying Hansard and memorising Churchill’s speeches. Who at 16 wowed a Tory conference with that shrill, hectoring speech. The gormless leader who at 36 thought he was being passed the Thatcher ite Flame, only to find it a poisoned chalice handed to any chump foolish enough to take it.
The Original Tory Boy who tried to win the yoof vote by wearing a baseball cap to the Notting Hill Carnival and a theme park, only for Tory writer Simon Heffer to say he resembled “a child molester on day release”.
Unabashed, he told GQ magazine he spent his youth downing 14 pints a day. No-one swallowed it. Not least a local pub owner who called him a liar and labelled him Billy Fizz.
Eventually The Youngest Fogey in the West became Billy Bandwagon, leaping onto every passing rightwing cause to ingratiate himself with the party’s core vote.
He was The Fighting Foetus, The Dome-Headed Tyke, in thrall to his party’s Loony Right, and he fought the 2001 election on a puerile Save The Pound platform. The Tories gained just one seat. He was a political failure at 40, leaving them so battered turned to Iain Duncan Smith.
But even critics admitted he was not just a caricature. His combative displays at Prime Minister’s Questions hinted at a cunning careerist behind the joke exterior.
The next decade showed the real Hague – an avaricious animal ready to oil his way into the good books of any individual or organisation that could line his pockets and keep him close to the Tory throne.
So successful was he that he earned more than any other sitting MP. David Cameron made him Shadow Foreign Secretary and called him “my deputy in all but name”.
It is Hague, not George Osborne, from whom Cameron takes most advice, which is why the Michael Ashcroft affair goes right to the top of the Tory chain of command.
Ashcroft is Hague’s man. Friends call the two “extraordinarily close”, with Ashcroft admitting a “mutual chemistry” the instant they met in 1997. So Ashcroft’s outing as a non-dom, who went back on a pledge to pay tax here to gain a peerage, casts a long shadow over Hague’s integrity.
It was Hague who persuaded him to bankroll the party in 1998. Hague who begged Tony Blair to make him a Lord.
Hague who refused to give a clear answer when asked nine times by Jeremy Paxman and four times by Andrew Marr if Ashcroft paid tax on his overseas earnings.
Maybe he didn’t know him that well. He had only been travelling on the billionaire’s jets and staying on his yacht for 11 years.
He only let Ashcroft accompany him to Cuba and the US last year and attend key meetings. They were so close that when Hague ennobled him, both gave a “clear and unequivocal… solemn and binding” JAshcrofts assurance he would become permanently resident in Britain. Only for the lord to spend a decade avoiding full UK taxes.
As former civil service chief Lord Turnbull said on Wednesday, it was Hague’s responsibilty as his “sponsor” to ensure he fulfilled that assurance. “We were taking Hague’s word that he had negotiated this deal and it turns out that he had negotiated a deal with a loophole,” said Lord Turnbull.
Hague claims he has only known of his chum’s tax status for a few months. The Times called him “evasive and weak.”
But his devotion to wealth is no surprise to friends. After quitting as Tory leader he was the first MP to earn £1million in a year, thanks to consultancies, newspaper columns and speeches. Commons documents last year showed £235,000 in “remunerated employment” including £50,000 as “parliamentary advisor to JCB” and £25,000 for a speech in Brussels.
There are directorships at AES Engineering and AMT-SYBEX Group, four trips overseas funded by private firms, a helicopter ride to Crewe and honorary membership of the Carlton club.
The expenses scandal also raised questions.
Despite his fortune he got the taxpayer to pay his mortgage interest and £4,000-a-year service charge on his £1million second home in London.
His claim of £61,995 between April 2004 and March 2007 was almost up to the maximum of £64,646. A senior Labour source added: “He’s been using taxpayers’ cash to help build a property empire.”
Then there are the freebies, such as £800 tickets for him and his wife to attend a Tory ball, paid for by a private finance firm.
The London Evening Standard asked why one of the wealthiest MPs chose to “accept the hospitality of others at this event?” Questions were also asked over a 2008 Barclays jolly to Italy’s Lake Como on the day global markets went into freefall. The Daily Mail wrote: “The VIP treatment… was at odds with the restraint and austerity David Cameron imposed on his party”.
Labour’s Richard Caborn blasted: “On the one hand Cameron is trying to distance himself from his chums in the City by slagging off bankers’ bonuses. On the other hand his right-hand man is jetting off to join a £500,000 bankers’ banquet in Italy.”
Cameron wants to show the Tories are the party of the ordinary guy. But thanks to the Ashcroft affair, it may be backfiring.
Behind the exaggerated Yorkshire twang, Hague is no Man of The People. His father owned a soft drinks company and Hague attended Oxford University. He now owns £1million homes in Yorkshire and London.
And he remains passionate about axeing inheritance tax for the super-rich and says: “I believe in it strongly. If we’re going to create a savings culture rather than a debt culture, we need to show we are serious.”
Hague believes the Tories will win by scaring the electorate. He is currently asking voters how they might feel waking up on the morning after polls close to find Gordon Brown still in government.
Maybe he should ask how they would feel if Billy Bandwagon finally made it there.