Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Another startling fact about William Hague...
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Tuesday 18 June 2013
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.
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