Cabinet reshuffle: Ukraine, Syria, Middle East... a baptism of fire awaits new Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Office

William Hague's departure just now may well be the deftest move of an astute politician
  • @oliver_wright

It just shows – you can’t trust the political punditry and the political pundits can’t trust their “confidential” briefings.

Until this weekend Downing Street were confidently telling trusted journalists that there would be no change in David Cameron’s top team of George Osborne, Theresa May and William Hague.

And now Mr Hague has gone – to the post of Leader of the Commons from whom the current incumbent Andrew Lansley has just exited.

Downing Street and Mr Hague both insist that the move is voluntary and there is no reason to believe that it’s not. But it is still not the best of timings. The new Foreign Secretary will have to “learn the ropes” against the background of a new European Commission with a President who is, at best, antipathetic to the British Government.

They will have to formate policy in Middle East against the growing crisis of Islamic extremism in Syria. Then there are on-going problems in Ukraine, a nuclear deal with Iran which is touch and go, and in the background the biggest question of all: how on earth to deliver a deal in Europe which will allow David Cameron to win an in/out referendum in 2017.

It is pretty daunting inbox.

To his credit Mr Hague has been a deft and astute diplomat who will be missed. But he may also be showing that he is a deft and astute politician – by getting out in time.