Hague's judgement questioned over Coulson saga

The Foreign Secretary was keen to get the former editor into the Tory party

Yesterday lunchtime William Hague enjoyed an "invigorating walk" in his constituency, far away from the turmoil of Westminster. Even in the wilds of Yorkshire, fellow ramblers would easily recognise one of the best-known figures in British politics.

The one-time Tory party leader has morphed from figure of ridicule to respectable elder statesman. He was right-wing reassurance to the grass roots and David Cameron's "deputy in all but name". Fast forward past the general election, and Mr Cameron has a deputy in name – and he is not even a Tory. Meanwhile, Mr Hague is facing questions about his judgement – over sharing a twin room with a 25-year-old aide, his backing for the controversial party donor Lord Ashcroft and his support for the hiring of Andy Coulson as the party's spin chief. Senior colleagues privately fear Mr Hague is "becoming a liability".

Public opinion of the 49-year-old has shifted in recent days. A week ago, internet rumours about his sexuality were just that. Only when the official government machine reacted did the mainstream press wade in and an otherwise ignorant electorate began discussing Mr Hague's sexuality.

When a press statement from the Foreign Office – insisting the relationship with Mr Myers was "purely professional" – failed to kill the story, the Foreign Secretary turned to Mr Coulson for help. It was like trying to douse a candle flame with a can of petrol.

It is understood that together with the Tory party's head of press, Henry Macrory, Mr Coulson was pushing for the confessional second statement, giving details of Mr Hague's difficulties in having a baby and denying he had "ever been involved in a relationship with any man". For his part, Mr Hague was reluctant, but deferred to the instincts of the tabloid hack. They go back a long way. Mr Hague earned some £200,000 a year writing a column for the News of the World when Mr Coulson was editor. When the latter was forced to resign in the wake of the phone-hacking revelations in January 2007, Mr Hague was among those pressing to "get him on board".

Questions also persist about what exactly Mr Hague knew of the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, who for some years funded his private office and later controlled the purse strings of the Tory's election campaign. University friends from his Oxford days remember the affable Yorkshireman having good judgement about people. His new colleagues in the Foreign Office have been equally impressed at his deft handling of the vast department.

But doubts remain about Mr Hague's ability to shake off the events and revelations of the past week. He has often faced questions about his hopes of a second stab at being Tory leader. He may not be asked them in future.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea