Category Archives: Oxford

Hague: My Mission to Dominate North Africa and the Middle East


I want to tell you about my mission to dominate North Africa and the Middle East. Well, not exactly mine but ‘This Coalition Government’s’ – (its what I call it now) – although to be accurate I should say we – the old colonial powers, Italy, France and Britain. Or is it NATO – I suppose it is. Well whatever it is, it is mine and I stand and fall by it. Look Charlie, stop laughing, I’m tired of this. Your precious Labour Party supports us, the House of Commons approves,  together with 40 percent of the electorate. What more can you ask for? Don’t answer that, rhetorical you know.  When I was a young Yorkshire lad two thirds of my Atlas was colured pink. It made you very proud to see it. And now, virtually nothing. Can any kid be proud of that? The answer is , no, Charlie. Of course not. Now we have another chance. These African Johnnies, it seems to us at the Foreign Office, wish to live in a democratic country like our own. Democracies are good for trade and commerce. We wish to trade and invest, of course we do. Ipso facto as they say at Oxford, supporting these revolutionary Johnnies is  in the national interest. It was always in our interest whether the map is coloured pink or green. Of course, if you intervene like we are doing in Libya in other places you cannot guarantee an outcome. But we three countries can see off Ghadaffi. It won’t take long – at least we hope not. What kind of chaps would we look like in the Middle East if we had done nothing, stood by on the other side of the road, while citizens were slaughtered. In my view Charlie – and please stop laughing – there is the domino effect to consider. If one country goes pink – that is pink for democracy now of course – other countries follow suit and the black and grey parts diminish. It makes you glad to know it. Glad to be British/Italian/ or French. I am glad.  Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would be  embarking on a mission to free so much of the world’s population from tyranny and poverty. Not single handed , of course. I spring out of bed these days with joy in my heart. If you snigger again, I’ll punch you. What did you say, consider the slogan, ‘In your heart, you know I’m right.’ and look what happened to him. Too abstruse Charlie. You can do better.

In many ways these are dark and difficult days for ‘The Coalition Government.’ We may fail overall to rescue Britain from the financial mess bequeathed by Labour. I admit it to you Charlie as we are off the record. But I – the Foreign Secretary – will look back on my experience at the Foreign Office with pride. We did our best to change the political colour of millions of people. What more can you ask of a British Foreign Secretary (sound of laughter and the crash of over-turned furniture off stage). 

 

 

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All that Glisters…


I do not like to be thought unfair. Here is a good word about the Coalition. I listened to the House of Commons debate on the referendum. I thought the Coalition got the better of the Labour Opposition and secured a comfortable Second Reading majority for the Bill. Labour had the stronger case but there was no doubt in my mind that the Coalition won the debate. It was obvious that many of the Tories had practiced the rhetorical arts in school and university debating societies. Their performances were impressive. The Tory benches were a sea of respectability and there was not a hairy oick in sight. Can Parliament survive this uniformity of representation? I thought not.

I was reminded of the advice my mother extended to my sisters on selecting male friends (assuming they are ever selected as such!). Look at their hands dear, she would say, you can tell what sort of man he is by the appearence of his hands and, in particular, his nails. If you don’t like the condition of his nails then dump him. This seemed wise advice to me at the time and it took time and a little experience before I concluded that she was deluded. Some of the worst murderers in English history were well-turned out respectable people with well-kept nails. You listen, Oh I was shocked. Such a nice man always neatly turned out – and polite. Always a cheery good morning. But with a black heart madam you are tempted to reply. All that glisters is not gold.

I applied my mother’s adage to Andy Coulson. We have many pictures and images of him in recent days. My mother would have approved. Such a nice looking boy, would you like to bring him home dear, might have been her question. I have never seen Andy’s nails at close quarters but my guess is that he has a haircut every three weeks and while there he has a manicure, I further suspect that he uses a colourless nail varnish. Of course this is only my guess. The public question is did this nice boy when  Editor of the News of the World reign over, tolerate and make use of information gathered illegally by phone tapping! For two years I was employed by a national newspaper group. In the trade ‘we’ might laugh and say that the Editors of all red-top newspapers are entirely willing to make use of information gathered by any method. Reporters struggling to break a compelling story understand the rules of the game. Look, Jones, we are told, get your finger out. I’m not telling you how to do this but break the story this week and get on with it. In tabloid journalism dog eats dog.

David Cameron admires Andy. He thought that he would make an ideal Director of Government Communications. From outside I think that our Dave was right. I admire the way the government is projecting itself. All very pleasant and meaningful. In my humble judgement Andy and Dave are tweedle dum and tweedle dee: ruthless, devious, well-organised, thoughtful and cunning, these are a few of the words that come immediately to mind. But what are they warming us up for? Such nice nails, and always immaculately turned out, with a smile for everyone. Well, dears, I say, all that glisters is not gold!

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Discretion or Confession


It used to the case, pre-internet, that a gentleman’s affairs were his own business. No longer. For some weeks now, or so we are told, rumours were circulating on the internet that William Hague was gay and was having an affair with a young man he met during the General Election campaign. Further we are told that rumours about his sexuality had been in existence for a much longer time.

Who cares, might have been the response. A person’s sexuality is his own business. Various studies in recent years suggest that 7-10 % of the population is gay in some sense of the word. In a Cabinet of 25 people 2-3 members may be gay. Given the predominance of a boarding school, single sex, education in a Tory Cabinet, perhaps half a dozen. Should they all be outed?

It used to be thought in the days when a homosexual  act could be a criminal offence that a Cabinet Minister who was a closet gay posed a security risk. William Hague is the Foreign Secretary. But a Minister only became a risk if he did not admit to being gay. Of course to admit it at times of repression presented difficulties. Even today David Laws preferred to keep silent about his male partner on an important matter and  suffered a political price for his need for discretion. Men will behave differently according to their upbringing and sensitivities.

Is William Hague’s sexuality of any interest (other than prurience)  to anyone? It may be. If his partner obtained a job paid for directly or indirectly by the taxpayer  which,  but for William Hague’s friendship,  he could not have obtained (that in some sense he had jumped a queue) that makes it a matter of public interest – but not of much consequence.

There is a broader issue. Is William Hague a dishonest man. Does he pretend to be one thing and turn out to be quite another? Is he, or has he,  in his public attitudes to homosexuality, acted  hypocritically? Is he still pretending to be one thing while being another? If this is so, a tolerant British public might become annoyed. Be honest with us, William, might be the plea. Now William Hague has been categorical about his position. If he has told the truth the door has been shut. The public will know  the outcome of this drama soo enough. What is it worth for a 25 year old man, his mum or his school chums to give an exclusive story to the News of the World? A cricketing scam might cost £150,000. What is the price of a lurid political drama in September 2010? Whatever the price, and it will be a high one, who should we blame for the publicity? Is it ‘the internet’, the Red Top rags, or the public school system of all-male education? Is it our fault? If you think the latter, shame on you for reading this blog.

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Cameron, Inexperience or Character?


High Office can be very cruel to a man. Shakespeare has shown us something of what can happen. He presents a mighty figure new to his task. As you look, a small crack can be seen in the edifice and under the pressure of high office one can see it widen until suddenly it splits asunder.

Are we witnessing this coming apart already in David Cameron? I do not suppose Cameron will repeat the mistakes of seeking to curry favour with some countries by insulting their ‘enemies’ and neighbours in public. At least not in the exactly same way. We shall write that down to learning from experience and the influence of others. But he will continue to be himself and he has told us so. Many hundreds of thousands of people will have seen the complicated expressions on David Cameron’s face when qustioned by journalists on his recent gaffes in Turkey and India: puzzlement, obstinacy and a degree of stupidity. After all when he shouted crude insults at Gordon Brown (of beloved memory) across the floor of the House of Commons people laughed and cheered. There must have been many similar moments in the Eton and Oxford debating societies: no one objected there. So why do they object in Pakistan and Israel?

This whole business of exposing oneself in public is fraught with difficulty. At first the crowd is amused and taken-in by one’s idiosyncracies and there is a welcome in the novellty of it (sorry, Gordon)  but then the mood changes as we quickly  grow critical and bored with the constant exposure. We try to modify what we do. It makes things worse. Have you noticed a change in our Dave’s intonation? His speech pattern has been altered. He has always , of course, spoken very quickly, as a child speaks and  as politicians do, in order to get his point in and evade critical questioning, but now he shouts. Quite suddenly in a speech he seems to take a breath and bellows. You think I exagerate?  Listen and make up your own mind. Our Dave is weak on detail. Harriet Harmon has revealed this for us. In the Commons she has sought policy detail from Dave on numerous occasions. He doesn’t answer. He does not know. In a debating society it is not desperately important to know what you are talking about. Succeeding is a matter of style, wit and combativeness. Dave certainly has what it takes to be popular and thus successful there. But in a wider world where most of what occurs is not of your making and liking. It is a question mark. Will we see the public edifice crumble  piece by piece over the coming months?

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