Tag Archives: William Hague

Closet or Cabinet?

Dr Liam Fox and now Oliver Letwin have given David Cameron the sort of distractions which he does not really need. There has been speculation about each man’s political future and the doom-mongers reckon that “it’s all unravelling”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A few years ago, I  had a meeting at Conservative Central Office (when the Party could still afford Smith Square) with Lord Freeman who, at the time, was in charge of Candidates. We discussed the possibility of me testing prospective members of Parliament so that the Party did not have to rely on patronage and the  depressingly amateurish local interviews which continue to be a feature of candidate selection.

Had we gone ahead  with the plans, the present Cabinet would have contained some candidates who would have been pre-vetted by me. In the event, it was decided not to go ahead with something which may have caused certain future Ministers embarrassment.  Mind you, this parliament has produced those who are managing maximum embarrassment without any external help.

However, in the main, DC has assembled a surprisingly able bunch of characters.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Cameron is a good, solid Prime Minister and, given the time, he could become a great one. There is just one thing holding him back – the lack of depth in his “one-downers”. The Cabinet.

Here’s the list:

Nick Clegg, William Hague, George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Theresa May, Liam Fox, Vince Cable, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Huhne, Andrew Lansley, Michael Gove, Eric Pickles, Philip Hammond, Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Danny Alexander, Lord Strathclyde, Baroness Warsi, Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin, David Willets, Sir George Young, Patrick McLoughlin, Dominic Grieve.

No problems at all with the first five:

Nick Clegg has the most difficult job, both as a politician and nanny to his confused Liberals who, in spite of (mostly) enjoying  the aphrodisiac nature of power, are still a bit uncertain as to whether they are really participating or merely ballast. His sometimes diffident manner disguises a will of steel.

William Hague has grown into his job, in spite of the shaky start with Libya. He has credibility abroad which is probably one of the most important attributes of any Foreign Secretary.

George Osborne, unsurprisingly has been the recipient of more “stick” than any other politician but , love him or hate him, he has shown courage and tenacity and sometimes, downright stubbornness. Whether those attributes are born of economic understanding or just downright bloody-mindedness, remains to be seen. What is in his favour is that, unlike many others – he takes decisions and stands by them.

Ken Clarke has made the legal system accessible. I know that sounds a bit fanciful but in spite of his occasional too-straight talking , he is a great antidote to a legal system which makes bankers and their bonuses look like paupers. Currently, both the economy and David Cameron need a Lord Chancellor who at least “appears” non-elitist because sooner or later, we are going to scrutinise the multi-billion pound cash machine that is THE LAW.

Theresa May is annoying. However, she is good at her job and so far, does not appear to have put a a faux leopard skin kitten-heel-clad foot wrong. She too is not afraid to take unpopular decisions. Her handling of both the News International scandal and the inner city rioting was impeccable.

I would also add Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove to the A-team. IDS has proved that there is life after political death and has been delivering spectacular results with his pensions initiatives. He is both a great theorist as well as having a rare quality among politicians – he is a “doer”.

Michael Gove has been quietly ploughing the Education furrow  and shaking-up an over-bureaucratic education system and has not been afraid to take some very unpopular decisions. He too is a “doer”. His thinking on education harks back to the 60s when children were educated and not used as test and statistics fodder. 10/10

Philip Hammond at Transport also belongs in the A-team and is without doubt a star of the future. He is lucky though to have both Norman Baker and Mike Penning as Parliamernary Under Secretaries.  Norman the Idealist and Mike the “no shit”  British Bulldog. Philip Hammond is seen on TV as a government spokesman much more than you might expect from a Secretary for Transport.

Dr Liam Fox has been delivering what, on the surface has been a solid job – if not a bit over-influenced by the balance sheet. He has always looked like the Conservatives’ “nearly man”. Soon, he may be the “never really was” man – as his political career begins to unravel. He, in common with all politicians should remember that Perception is King. The current perception of him is now tending towards  the seedy.

Vince Cable was always going to be a problem and continues to be a bit of a thorn. He is a natural backroom boy and looks terribly uncomfortable in the back of a Ministerial limo. However, by far his biggest handicap is the fact that he is having increasing difficulty in disguising his Socialist views. He seems to be in permanent pain. Very soon, his political career will  describe the downward arc of the parabola. He is the Statler and Waldorf of the Cabinet and compared to some of the other youngsters is from the wrong generation. His obssession with the bankers is hurting his credibility because he has not managed to do anything about them and never will.

Chris Huhne is even more annoying than Theresa May (!) but his personal life and the alleged driving licence naughtiness has totally blown his credibility. He is lucky that he is a Liberal – otherwise he may have already participated in an exit interview with DC.

Andrew Lansley is running the NHS in the way that you would expect from a career Civil Servant. He is doubtless very able – as a Civil Servant – but the NHS currently needs a large dose of commercial thinking. Everything that he has put forward so far has been through the wringer. Wrong man in the wrong job.

Eric Pickles is a great man in every sense.  He provides the Cabinet with some Northern credibility. From a Labour family, this ex-Communist has travelled the entire political spectrum and is one of the shrewdest operators in Government. He is one of the few in Cabinet who is 100% suited to his brief with the advantage of being a working-class Conservative.

One Cabinet member who one could have been forgiven for thinking would, by now be running one of the great Departments of State is Francis Maude. He is a rock-solid operator and should, without doubt be on the real A-team. As Minister at the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General , he has been handed a temporary consolation prize. He has not peaked yet. As a former Managing Director of Morgan Stanley, he knows things.  Street-wise.

Oliver Letwin is Minister of State at the Cabinet office is DC’s Policy Adviser. Like many intellectuals, he appears to be constantly stressed and “away with the fairies”.  He is the archetypal analytical-amiable who cannot manage himself – or others – and has been given the “Special Projects” brief. He is currently the recipient of a press-roasting but, like a good luck charm, will always be retained in some capacity. It is a pity that other Cabinet members cannot spot “burn-out” when they see it.

David Willets, like Letwin is a white-hot intellectual who is good to have around. He is articulate and fiercely bright.  He would have done much better , had he not looked like a spud. His great disadvantage is a lack of any “street-cred” because he has always been a political “wonk”. Having said all that, he is the ideal person to be looking after Universities and Science with the advantage of being so clever that there isn’t a single other member anywhere NEAR as suitable for this job.

Danny Alexander is another (young) career politician and his appointment has always smacked of tokenism with the added suspicion that David Laws is hanging about whilst DC waits for a respectable passage of time before he invites him back.

Sir George Young SHOULD have been Speaker of the House and his present post as Leader of the House is his consolation prize.  He is marking time because he will probably be the next Speaker. In spite of a comparatively undistinguished Parliamentary career so far, he gives the Cabinet gravitas.

Next we have the Cabinet  “solid citizens”.  All are capable but not stars: Caroline Spelman, Andrew Mitchell, Owen Patterson, Michael Moore, Cheryl Gillan, Jeremy Hunt, Patrick McLoughlin and Dominic Grieve are all OK but will never set the world on fire.

Finally we have the youthful, Lord Strathclyde, or should I say Thomas Galloway Dunlop du Roy de Blicquy Galbraith, 2nd Baron Strathclyde. As Leader in the Lords, he is a very safe pair of hands and is a Conservative straight from Tory Central Casting. A great asset to the Cabinet.

Baroness Warsi is Chairman of the Conservative Party and although a competent TV performer, she always sounds as if she’s reading from a Tory pamphlet. She is very likely to be reshuffled out soon. Bearing in mind that Perception is King, her appointment smacked of tokenism.

So, you see that , in spite of the elitist-millionaire tags, the Cabinet is largely populated by a very cabable and  solid bunch of operators –  although the real depth of talent within the Coalition parties is still a bit of a mystery – even, one suspects, to David Cameron himself.

This Cabinet has a good mix of experience, intellect and toughness.

Whether or not you share their views or politics – they are (by far) the ones who have the very best chance of extricating us from where we have landed.

The Petulant One

“I condemn you, Gaddafi!!”

William Hague briefly came out from behind America’s voluminous skirts a couple of days ago to announce that the Libyan embassy was to be cleared of pro Gaddafi officials and that they would be replaced by rebels.

Has there ever been a more puerile sign of frustration from a grown-up politician?

The thwarted Western powers, represented by NATO have made little progress since the initial Benghazi protests and riots six months ago. The protesters shouted “democracy” and as usual, the politicians came running. Most neutral observers have learned that any Middle Eastern protest is absolutely nothing to do with democracy, free speech or any of the other Western indulgences that we have become used to.

It has always been about power and economics. The poor, the impressionable young and the students riot, whilst the intelligentsia and the military plot behind their king’s back. They are the ones who enjoy the spoils of war. Life doesn’t really change for the poor and the young. Life rarely changes for the poor.

Decisions made by politicians in respect of Libya seem to have been made with one eye on the oil with the other on the opinion polls. In spite of the rhetoric, this has never really been about “The Libyan People”

President Sarkozy of France had hoped to make a victorious announcement on Bastille Day because all that he’s thinking about at the moment is re-election. Hopefully he will soon accept that it is not going to happen for him and that although he somehow made it to the top of the greasy French political pole, his grip has never been that strong and he has been sliding back down ever since. His involvement in the Libya bombing should help him along on his journey south.

William Hague on the other hand has been handed the Foreign Office as a bit of a consolation prize, following the disaster of his leadership and the years spent in comparative obscurity . Rather worryingly though, he remains one of the more talented members of the Cabinet. From the beginning he has looked not only out of sorts but out of his depth when dealing with a soldier-politician as slippery as Col Gaddafi.

Obama has much bigger things on his plate at the moment and his own re-election chances may also have been dealt a fatal blow by Libya – although his advisers seem to have foreseen Gaddafi’s intransigence. A small blessing for Obama is that  America went into reverse gear on Libya a few months ago. He had little choice in the matter.

We’ve had sanctions, we’ve had “no fly” zones,  we’ve had bombing and we have had strong words. Libya’s assets were frozen, the Gaddafi family’s assets were stolen but still, the mad Col continues to elude all attempts to oust him. Surprisingly, to some, it was predictable from the very beginning. Unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi sees himself as Emperor of Libya – the first of a dynasty. Imperator Muammar l.

One wonders what ever happened to the  “that’s up to the Libyan people” mantra? It seems that everything is up to the Libyan people apart from who rules over them. That appears to be in the gift of the West. Even if two-thirds of the 6.4 million population of Libya have abandoned Gaddafi, that still leaves him far more support than Obama, Sarkozy or Cameron enjoy back home.

The propaganda machine has convinced us that Gaddafi is a BAD person. However, it is not Gaddafi who is dropping high-explosive on someone that he does not approve of.

Why is it that whenever we see any sort of conflict, we feel that we (United Kingdom) have to elbow our way nearly to the front of the queue, stand behind the the muscled bully-boy friend that is the United States of America and jump out occasionally to yap like a  toothless, castrated old Jack Russell.

This so-called “Arabs Spring” is a headline writer’s nonsense. It is no Solidarność and it is no knocking down of the Berlin Wall. It started with a bunch of vandals and students waving placards believing that the mere act of defiance would be enough to remove Gaddafi. They chanted the “D” word.  D E M O C R A C Y!

What they would prefer is a box of food and a TV set.

Yes, they fooled us into thinking and believing that what they want is democracy. In fact all they want  is a fair share of the oil spoils, more money in their pockets and a State which cares  about them.

There is little doubt that Gaddafi has gone way past his sell-by date and that he’s no longer even fit to run a British Nursing Home. Unfortunately, it usually takes a country a few years to realise that things are better than they were but not as good as they could be.

Gaddafi used to be a hero as he had liberated “his” people from the oppression and the years of Stone Age “nothing” under King Idris. As has been shown in many other states from France to Iran, deposing one set of royals invariably results in a temporary euphoria, followed by the installation another set of unelected “royals”.

Gaddafi ( just like a French President) has developed into their new King, his children are his heirs and his primary method of ensuring the faithfulness of those who matter, is through the medium of the bestowal of  money and favours. Nothing unusual in that! That what kings do!

Six months ago, the West’s initial reaction to the Libyan friction was the usual formulaic stuff. It had recently been practiced on Mubarak. Our governments “condemned” Gaddafi’s actions. One day the United Kingdom and others will realise that words such as “we condemn” or “we call upon……”  no longer frighten “the natives”.

We fell into a trap similar to the one that Saddam inadvertently sprung (on himself) when he appeared to exaggerate  his own military prowess.

Gaddafi, on the other hand, threatened to “kill his own people”.

That is the “Way of the Dictator”!

Dictators always seems to end up behaving just like the has-been heavyweight boxer who craves recognition and needs to reassert his rapidly diminishing masculinity and popularity. It’s “Dictator Trash Talk”. It’s plastic defiance and paper posturing. It’s NOT real!

And we fall for it every time.

Obama at the No 10 Barbecue

Large men wearing shades, wires dangling from cauliflower ears and overcoats neatly folded in front of them stand very still. They are watching a little man running about putting the last touches to the seating arrangements. Sweat is pouring down his pink face. He looked quite neat when he arrived with the milk at 4.00 a.m. Now he looks like a sweating anaemic blood orange in a crumpled grey suit. 

At last his master summons him.  “Clegg!” 

The Prime Minister, looking very casual in his white shirt, navy blue suit trousers, black brogues, pulls off his tie and hands it to the hapless Clegg. “Get rid of this. Don’t lose it. When my bestest chums Barack and Michelle arrive, take their coats and put them somewhere safe. Can you manage that? I don’t want any more fuck-ups. Speaking of fuck ups, how’s the Huhne thing going?”

“Well, your Highness……….”stammers Clegg, “I…..I…..I. Sorry your Eminent and Serene…..Highness….”

“Just shut the fuck up and get rid of the tie, Make sure that you fold it properly.”

Clegg scuttles off pausing only to be searched and for the tenth time, have a metal detector waved over him by a gorilla in RayBans.

He runs into No 10, through the French windows, up a short flight of stairs, into the lavatory. He decides to have a quick pee but in his blind haste, he wets the Prime Minister’s tie. “Fuck!”  he mutters. Another bollocking.

Imperceptibly, the mood in the Rose Garden changes. The Special Service psychos suddenly stand a bit straighter whilst the biggest one – the one with shoulders like an overstuffed sofa speaks into his sleeve. They’re here! 

An immaculate and very cool Obama sweeps through into the garden . Michelle, looking casual yet expensively glamorous follows discreetly.

The “Mwwwah! Mwwwah” ceremony between the Camerons and the Obamas is quickly concluded as the rest of the Cabinet lines up for the handshakes. Hague is looking especially resplendent in his New York Yankees baseball hat, multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and Argos trainers. Cameron looks across at Hague, just as the Foreign Secretary says to Michelle ” Hello, Nice day”.

“Twat!” thinks Cameron as he watches Sam fuss over the pre-cooked, pre-tasted,  Texan burgers on the grill .

” Would you like a burger, Barack?”  he shouts over to the President who at that moment stands shaking hands with the Home Secretary who once again is wearing her leopard print “Fuck me” shoes.

The President is relieved to have finished the gladhanding , grabs Michelle by the hand and returns to the comparative sanctuary of the blazing-hot barbecue.

Cameron repeats: ” Burger Barack?”

Barack pulls a sheet of paper from his trouser pocket.

“As the white-hot fingers of the London sun caress the pale face of this momentous day in this Rose Garden, I would ask something of you – my fellow  human being and servant of the people…Mr Prime Minister………..something that I am not just asking of you. It is something that I would ask of anyone. Take your wooden tongs , and reach…………yes, reach for that burger bun ( Yes we can!) and having split it with the ice-sharp steel of your artisan knife – thrust into it one , just one  onion-laced beef patty and hand it to me –  for I am like you . I am your brother and I know that you also feel my hunger and the hunger of the people, your people, my people……OUR PEOPLE!  The people of the world! We are the people!  And when you have handed it to me, I will endeavour to accomplish what has been instituted by families up and down this great land of Ingerland since the mists of time parted.  They parted to reveal our forebear – the common man ( Yes we can!). I am not asking for anything more that a bite – or if it pleases you, my dear and gracious Prime Minister Cameroon –  just the opportunity of a bite. Now if that bite seems unpleasant or offensive in any way – we neither make nor demand apology  – we simply ask the one question that matters – ketchup or none? Cheeze or no cheeze I do not yet know the answer but…..we shall begin our journey, this barbecue journey together and  we shall find out! It will be our quest! We may not get it right first time but one day soon  we will know! Maybe even before the end of this great day! God Bless the County of Ingerland and  the United States of America!”

Cameron and Sam are now beginning to look quite ill-at-ease. Sam turns to her husband who appears to have gone into “shut-down”. “What the fuck was that all about. Does he want a fucking burger or not?”

Just  as President Obama pauses for applause an embarrassed Michelle steps in. The only person clapping, jumping up and down, waving an American flag  is Clegg. One of the Secret Service gorillas looks as if he is about to shoot the Limey faggot with the wet stains down the front of his trousers.

Michelle helps the Camerons ” He means ‘yes please’. Can you please give him a burger in a bun. Sorry about that but I’m always having to do this. He does get carried away”

Clegg approaches the great man. He is clutching a worn schoolboy autograph book.

“Can I have your autograph, please?”  He is barely managing to hold back the tears of joy.

” Of course, Clegg. Should I do it ‘to Nick’ ?” Clegg is so overcome, all that he can do is nod.

Cameron signs his name. “Now piss off and help with the washing up.”

The Halo effect.


I have dealt with politicians for many years and one of the first things that I learned was to distinguish between real ability and perceived ability. The Halo Effect.

Most politicians (except close chums of the PM) –  have to go through a selection and an election process. Once they are elected and become a Member of Parliament, nothing changes, except that they have a new job. Their abilities remain exactly where they were the day before the election but many seem to believe that they have become “canonised” and for some, “The Venerable” would fit far better than the pedestrian ” Hon member”.

So what is the Halo Effect? It is simply our mis-perception of someones abilities and traits, based on other abilities or traits. For instance, when you see a photo of a particularly attractive woman, you make a perceptual decision about her voice, her personality etc – all based on one small item of information.

We assume that tall people are more intelligent. We assume that someone wearing a Barbour and holding a Purdey shotgun will talk in a certain way and has a certain amount of money. We assume that if someone has one quality, we can load them with others.

If you have a child, you will understand that he or she assumes that dad or mum can do anything, from dressing a wound to mending Thomas the Tank Engine. To your child, you can do anything. Your halo is the biggest that it will ever be. To your baby, you are ALL halo!

In management and politics, many organisational mistakes are made – more so in politics because of the perceived attributes and skills of those who engage in politics. The motley mixture of ex-union men, solicitors, barristers and teachers who attend Westminster tend to play with a very narrow skill-set, yet in many cases, they imagine that have suddenly been blessed with the lot! 

In politics, because someone is eloquent, he or she can be imbued with an amazing array of skills. The sad fact is that important skills such as negotiating , organisational and management skills are NOT acquired through osmosis but have to be learned and trained.

I have met politicians who are embarrassed to be trained in ANYTHING because their ego and self-perceived status hold them back. That’s purely because of their belief in their own immortality and omnipotence. On too many occasions, they are promoted to fail  – and very often, they do. Hence the rather blunt instrument that is the Cabinet reshuffle.

If you think about it, the Cabinet Reshuffle is no more than a Prime Minister’s admission that he is not very good at recruitment and selection. I have often said to senior executives:  ” Either you promoted the wrong man, recruited the wrong man or have failed to manage him  properly. So whose fault is it that there has been a screw-up?”

When a Prime Minister promotes someone to a key job, he cannot do so purely on ability. Not-only have promises been made, advisers consulted, friendships cemented and length of service considered but there is also the question that president Johnson coined:

“Do I want him outside the tent  pissing-in, OR should I have him inside the tent, pissing out?” 

ACTUAL ability and the correct set of skills for the job is way-down a long list. Many boxes have to be ticked before something as mundane as “fit for purpose” is considered.

Which brings me neatly to William Hague. He is an excellent  speaker and as a result of making himself look a prat at the 1976 Conservative Party Conference, he became a “face”.

Now, 35 years later, all that he has behind him is a long political career without ever  having had the benefit of  having had to manage his way out of the sort of crisis that he was presented when British subjects needed to be repatriated from Libya.

But because he is a nice man, a good speaker and because of the title of Foreign Secretary,we assumed that he could complete the simple task of sending a plane to Tripoli without his boss having to apologise for what looks like a major screw-up and PR disaster. William is not ruthless enough to be a leader. He’s proved that once  already – and that includes leading the United Kingdom’s Foreign policy.

The “reciprocal” of the Halo Effect is the Reverse Halo Effect. Once someone screws-up one thing, we assume that everything else that he touches will be a disaster. That happened to Gordon Brown. 

Mind you, he was a History graduate, ex-University lecturer and was totally and utterly unsuitable for a management job. He would have been stressed to breaking point and this manifested itself in his total ability to make a decision. Once we found out what he was really like, his fate was sealed. Once he’d acquired the “indecisive” sobriquet, no amount of PR could help him. That’s the power of the Reverse Halo.

 Again, Brown was a thoroughly decent man but like Hague, not fit for purpose.

In the same way that Hague’s halo manifested itself during his 1976 speech, the Reverse Halo is now in place – then it’s down to nothing more than David Cameron’s humanity, loyalty,  patience and judgement.

Meanwhile, William has to be careful. Some of us haven’t forgotten the hat. Or the hair:

William Hague – a tribute


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.