Hague chastised for telling Irish jokes

William Hague has been accused of "a Bernard Manning moment" after telling what critics described as homophobic and anti-Irish jokes at a business dinner.

Mr Hague, the former leader of the Tories who now earns up to £7,000 a night for after-dinner talks, had some guests "wincing" at a meeting of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders at the Hilton in London.

One joke involved an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman who each named a son after saints' days. The punchline was that the Irishman named his son Pancake. Mr Hague later poked fun at Peter Mandelson. "I agree with a lot of the things the Prime Minister says. Particularly that I have no reverse gear. I too wouldn't have a reverse gear if Peter Mandelson was standing behind me."

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "Public figures should probably avoid making negative stereotypes."

And a spokesman for Stonewall, a gay rights campaign group, said: "A senior politician like William Hague has got a responsibility to watch his language."

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