If Hague had kept an experienced press handler like William Littlejohn as his SpAd he wouldn’t be in this situation would he? He wouldn’t haven’t released that stupid statement on Monday, which brought him more unwanted press attention. He wouldn’t have released that cynical, Aitkenesque, “sword of fidelity” statement yesterday. All in all, he has only himself to blame for being ill-advised and has shown a staggering lack of judgement.
“Extraordinary”, “astonishing” and “startling” seem to be the words deployed by this morning’s newspapers in response to Hague’s nuclear statement last night. Nick Robinson was lost for words on News at Ten. The Sun manages to criticise the legitimate questioning of Hague’s judgement as the “debasement of politics” with a straight face. Over at The Guardian, the employment of Myers is questioned and The Mail join them in questioning whether it was necessary to divulge so much information and why this was done. The Mirror are somewhat on a high-horse asking if this is what Palmerstone would have done.
If the strategy of the statement was to kill the story on Blair’s big day, seven national newspaper have splashed it on the front pages and the news channels have gone into overdrive. Despite the expected Twitter storm, it seems most realise the questioning is legitimate after all. A dangerous tactic has been chosen by the government, that has set noses sniffing in Westminster. If anyone is giving this story legs, it’s certainly not blogs…
Coincidently William Hague is meeting with Guido later this morning and there will be a joint press conference at about 10.30. Guido Westerwelle his German counterpart that is.
Christopher Myers resigns from the FCO, citing “untrue and malicious allegations”.
“I feel it is necessary to issue this personal statement in response to press and internet speculation over the last ten days. Earlier this year a Sunday newspaper began questioning whether my marriage to Ffion was in trouble, and last week another media outlet asked whether there was a statement about our supposed separation. This seemed to be linked to equally untrue speculation surrounding the appointment of Christopher Myers as a Special Adviser. Christopher Myers has demonstrated commitment and political talent over the last eighteen months. He is easily qualified for the job he holds. Any suggestion that his appointment was due to an improper relationship between us is utterly false, as is any suggestion that I have ever been involved in a relationship with any man.
This speculation seems to stem from the fact that whilst campaigning before the election we occasionally shared twin hotel rooms. Neither of us would have done so if we had thought that it in any way meant or implied something else. In hindsight I should have given greater consideration to what might have been made of that, but this is in itself no justification for allegations of this kind, which are untrue and deeply distressing to me, to Ffion and to Christopher.
He has now told me that, as a result of the pressure on his family from the untrue and malicious allegations made about him, he does not wish to continue in his position. It is a pity that a talented individual should feel that he needs to leave his job in this way. Ffion and I believe that everyone has a right to a private life.
However, we now feel it necessary to give some background to our marriage because we have had enough of this continued and hurtful speculation about us. I have made no secret of the fact that Ffion and I would love to start a family. For many years this has been our goal. Sadly this has proved more difficult for us than for most couples. We have encountered many difficulties and suffered multiple miscarriages, and indeed are still grieving for the loss of a pregnancy this summer. We are aware that the stress of infertility can often strain a marriage, but in our case, thankfully, it has only brought us closer together.
It has been an immensely traumatic and painful experience but our marriage is strong and we will face whatever the future brings together. Several years ago one Sunday paper reported that Ffion was three months pregnant, without ever checking the story with us. This made even more difficult the fact that we had only just experienced another disappointment. We have never made this information public because of the distress it would cause to our families and would not do so now were it not for the untrue rumours circulating which repeatedly call our marriage into question. We wish everyone to know that we are very happily married.
It is very regrettable to have to make this personal statement, but we have often said to each other ‘if only they knew the truth…’ Well, this is the straightforward truth. I will not be making any further comment on these matters.”
No surprises that Tony showers praise on his loyal heir David Miliband. A good spot by Andrew Sparrow who notes:
“Blair says that Miliband was “fundamentally uncertain” in 2007 about whether he wanted the top job. But Blair also says: “Two years later he would be a different calibre of politician, with clear leadership qualities.”
Blair says “two years later”. But we’re reading this more than three years later. Is that sloppy editing? Or does it mean that Blair thought Miliband should replace Brown in 2009, before the general election?”
No other leadership candidate gets anywhere near the support. Ed Miliband is merely seen as one of Brown’s “folk”. Pure venom is spat at Ed Balls. Along side talk of him “behaving badly” was this gem:
“He has guts and he can take decisions. But he suffers from the bane of all left-leaning intellectuals. As I have remarked elsewhere, these guys never ‘get’ aspiration”
The other two candidates are barely mentioned in passing. Blair admits he knew Brown would be a disaster and had David preparing for a leadership bid in 2007. Things would have been very different if the prodigy had found the courage…
As The Journey hits the bookshelves, the truth about the TB/GBs is seeping out. Gordon was “maddening”, drove Blair to drink and he apparently always knew the nutter next door would be a dreadful Prime Minister. Nice of him to tell us this at the time, and during the election.
Hacks are queuing up to say “I told you so”, except that they didn’t, until it was too late. Even Nick Robinson is having a go:
“Some said it was tittle tattle, others that it was speculation, a few dared to suggest that it was fabrication. I now accept that I made mistakes. Things were worse – much worse – than I reflected at the time.”
Nice to see he was toeing the line as ever – “I did not report then but now can…”
The Tories will make hay of the endorsement for their economic policy. The fact that Gordon had actually theatened to unleash the Cash for Honours storm in a row over policy has confirmed long held suspicions that the dark arts were used there. In the mean time Guido is going to keep reading…
A spokesman for William Hague said: “Any suggestion that the Foreign Secretary’s relationship with Chris Myers is anything other than a purely professional one is wholly inaccurate and unfounded.”
Interestingly worded. Note there is no denial that they shared a hotel room.
Guido has ascertained confirmation that for at least one night during the general election campaign the Foreign Secretary shared a hotel room with his then driver Christopher Myers, whom he has now appointed as his Special Adviser on the Civil Service payroll. Other campaign staffers stayed in separate more modest hotels and sources suggest that this was not a one off instance. Guido believes it to be the case that it would be usual for the bill for the room – which was settled by Hague personally – to be reimbursed via the Conservative Party’s election campaign expenses. One witness told Guido that the room sharing couple’s body language at breakfast was eye opening.
It is surely inappropriate for someone of William Hague’s status to be sharing a night in a hotel room with his driver – you only have to consider how absurd it would be if his driver were female to see it is completely bizarre even if there were two beds. The appointment of Hague’s former driver to his private office is controversial because 25-year old Myers has no expertise for the job, no relevant experience and his only qualification for the position is his closeness to the Foreign Secretary.
Eyebrows were raised at CCHQ when William Littlejohn, Hague’s well connected and respected press officer for the last two years, was passed over in favour of Myers – who is currently in hiding from the press. Littlejohn was left effectively jobless after the election until Andy Coulson found him a job with Caroline Spelman. You couldn’t make it up…
Two national Sunday papers have the evidence but, despite journalists putting considerable resources into the story, their editors are reluctant to pursue it. Perhaps because in the words of the song,”no one knows what goes on behind closed doors”…
Further to the post earlier about the Guardian taking tens of thousands of pounds from local councils in return for editorial guidance over their review of the “Future of Public Services” Guido got thinking. Is this shabby journalism really what was envisaged by the tax-evading CP Scott? The Scott Trust is in place to “secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.” All very noble.
Amongst the “essential qualities that Scott believed should form the character of a newspaper” are honesty, fairness and “a sense of duty to the reader and the community”. The Scott Trust’ role is to ensure that these values are upheld throughout Guardian Media Group.
So how does touting out control over a feature to the highest bidder really stack up with this?
Perhaps a complaint to the Scott Trust is in order…