Sunak ally Hague rejects speculation of key role in Cameron return

The former Tory leader has played down claims that he played a major behind-the-scenes role in the return of David Cameron.

Dominic McGrath
Tuesday 14 November 2023 09:47 GMT
William Hague, who served in David Cameron’s Cabinet, insisted that he did not play a backstage role in the former prime minister’s return (Chris Radburn/PA)
William Hague, who served in David Cameron’s Cabinet, insisted that he did not play a backstage role in the former prime minister’s return (Chris Radburn/PA)

William Hague has played down speculation that he played a key behind-the-scenes role in the return of David Cameron, following the former prime minister’s shock appointment as Foreign Secretary.

Lord Cameron’s surprise decision to take up the Cabinet role prompted speculation that Lord Hague – a close ally of Rishi Sunak who was himself foreign secretary in the 2010 Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition – helped engineer the move.

But Lord Hague on Tuesday distanced himself from such manoeuvrings while acknowledging that he did know about the plan in advance.

Amid questions about when exactly Mr Sunak decided to appoint the former prime minister, Lord Hague also said that he was aware “a few days before”.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “I do like the idea of David Cameron coming back into government and was very enthusiastic about it. I knew about it a few days before and spoke to David Cameron to brief him about my views on foreign affairs and the Foreign Office, but it wasn’t my idea.

“You read these things that I ‘set it up in some way, it was my idea’. That’s not the case.

“I know Rishi Sunak and David Cameron very well, but sometimes in politics things are simpler than they look, sometimes somebody just asked somebody else around for a chat and said, ‘Why don’t you do this? And they say, Well, OK, fine’.

“It doesn’t need any intermediary, they just sort it out themselves. So that’s what happened in this case.”

Mr Sunak succeeded Lord Hague as MP for Richmond (Yorks) when the senior Tory stepped down as an MP in 2015.

The resurrection of Lord Cameron’s political career, cut short by his defeat in the 2016 Brexit referendum, has divided Tory MPs.

His return, as well as a slew of appointments from the centre of the Conservative party, has angered some on the right.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, a long-time Boris Johnson loyalist, submitted a no confidence letter to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee.

Newly installed party chairman Richard Holden, an MP from the so-called red wall of former Labour heartlands turned Tory in 2019, stressed the need for unity ahead of the next general election.

“We are a broad church of a political party, we want all parts of the centre right in British politics to be represented. It’s the nature of our democracy.

“What we don’t do is have small splinter parties ahead of a general election and then a deal cooked up behind the scenes.

“What you see is a broad church, Conservative party with a common goal, united together in what it is deciding to put forward to the country,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

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