Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Another startling fact about William Hague...


Maybe he was simply overwhelmed with pride at  so many world leaders gathering in Northern Ireland. But the DUP's Reverend William McCrea's uncharacteristically lyrical question to William Hague about “hopes for successful negotiations' on an EU-US trade agreement during the ”G8 discussions in the beautiful surroundings of Fermanagh“ was  surprising. If he had his way we wouldn't  be in the EU-which the South Antrim MP recently described as ”a bureaucratic monstrosity that robs the coffers of our nation.“

Was Commons europhobia melting  at the prospect of a deal  the Foreign Secretary confirmed would bring a mouth watering £100bn to EU members?  Surely not. Either way Hague was later  prompted  to recall how during the last European referendum-when he was just 14-” I  had a big influence on how my family voted.“

Another startling fact about the Foreign Secretary's precocious adolescence! Instead of being out with  mates doing  wheelies on his Stingray  bike he was  boring  his relatives rigid, presumably  insisting they line up  with the -then-pro-European Opposition  leader  Margaret Thatcher in the 1975  vote. And  this was just  two years before he became the youngest ever speaker at the Tory conference, a highlight of his teenage years, during which, he has claimed, he used to drink 14 pints of beer a day while on a delivery round.

Foreign Office Questions were otherwise  dominated by  Syria, and  a bizarre episode of  non-verbal communication after Speaker John Bercow sought to reassure a sceptical Peter Hain that Hague was ”hinting that they would not dream“ of arming rebel forces…… without first seeking a debate in the House and a vote….” Since  Hague nodded  as he spoke, Bercow then ruled he had given an “explicit commitment” to such a vote. This stretched the meaning of “explicit” but most MPs seemed satisfied.

Pressed on  illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, Hague was asked whether he himself bought  from them. “I am not in close control of the fresh produce purchased in the Hague household, since certain of my other duties interfere with that”. Elegant and diplomatic as ever. But still a cop-out.