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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: Jonathan Hill for Brussels. But which Jonathan Hill?


Lord Hill is best known as the minister who once went into the Prime Minister’s office intending to resign, but spoke so softly that David Cameron did not hear, and so he kept him on. So whether he meant to accept the post of European Commissioner can only be guessed: perhaps he turned it down, sotto voce, and the Prime Minister thought he was saying yes.

Whatever, Jonathan Hill goes off to Brussels to reinforce the point Cameron made so forcefully as he battled to block the elevation of Jean-Claude Juncker – that we thoroughly deprecate the practice of handing out top Europe jobs to people nobody has ever heard of.

The name Jonathan Hill is well known in Brussels, as deputy head of the private office of the Commissioner for Education, Androulla Vassilou, from Cyprus. But that is just confusing.

Ms Vassilou tweeted in bewilderment: “Is it possible that the deputy head of my Cabinet has been nominated as the next UK Commissioner?” On second thoughts, she tweeted: “No, I don’t think so. My Jonathan is not a Lord and he is pro-European!”

The real Jonathan Hill was the one who, when asked by the Conservative Home website if he was going to be an EU Commissioner, exclaimed: “Non! Non! Non!” Or was he? Who knows?

Exit from the goon squad

In case anyone is wondering why William Hague proposes to throw up a political career at the age of 54, his father Nigel told the Daily Telegraph: “He plans to enjoy himself, and to do some writing and go to places and make a lot more money because he loses money working with all those goons.”

This is true. Back numbers of the MP’s Register of Interest show that Hague was raking in between £170,000 and £220,000 a year, on top of his MP’s salary of £60,675, when he was out of government. As Foreign Secretary he has had to scrape by on £134,565.

A matter of proportions

Speaking to the press gallery lunch today, the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin proudly declared “We have increased the size of women in the Conservative Party.” I do not think that he quite meant to say that.

Whitehall Kremlinology

While David Cameron was reshuffling, his old school chum Boris Johnson was on the location of what used to be Catford dog track in south-east London. It is more than 10 years since dogs last raced there, and the land is being developed for much-needed housing.

I put it to the Mayor that the cull of pro-EU ministers then under way was a sign that the Tory party is veering off to the right, and was bluntly told: “That’s an old-fashioned Kremlinology. That’s the kind of dialectic that was used in the old days to analyse reshuffles. It’s actually about refreshing the team – that sort of thing.”

Kremlinology was the science of studying bland official Soviet pronouncements for clues as to what was really happening. There was one famous occasion when the New York Times took the mickey out of the Kremlinologists for getting all excited because the chief of police, Lavrentry Beria, was not included in a list of top people at a show at the Bolshoi. “Perhaps Mr Beria doesn’t like the theatre,” they suggested.

Actually, Mr Beria had been arrested and was later shot. So, Boris, let us not diss Kremlinology.