When he’s not running a football club or advising Bank of America, part-time MP David Miliband teaches politics to the students of Haverstock School in Chalk Farm. He apparently “taught the theory/practice of ministerial accountability this morning.” No doubt without a trace of irony.
As a minister Miliband was hardly the most loyal of servants to his Primus Inter Pares. Triggering various leadership crises and letting his disdain be well-known. Presumably that’s the practice part of the lesson.
Miliband’s less than exemplary record in government has even come under attack from William Hague. Finding his recently lacking quick wit, Hague quips about being Foreign Secretary to this month’s Total Politics; “this isn’t a launch pad to one day be leader again, which, I think must be a great distraction, and has been for some of my predecessors.” Miaow.
Despite a weekend of declaring he’s not going anywhere, critics are still circling around Hague again this morning. Imagine the hail of twitter-righteousness if Steve Bell had drawn this cartoon for the Mail or this blog. Why the double standards for Guardian scribbles?
High up the list of things that Hague might find it a bit tricky to live down was his rash declaration that Gadaffi was on his way to Venezuela soon after the uprising began in Libya. Guido’s man in Vauxhall Cross explains the confusion. MI6 had briefed him that they had intercepted a mobile phone conversation that had one of Gaddafi’s close staff speaking Spanish and using “code words”. The spooks deduced that he was almost certainly preparing Gaddafi’s flight to see his old chum Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Obviously.
Turns out the man was actually ordering a take-away meal of burritos and tacos from the Café Caracas in Tripoli. Apparently.
The Libyan crisis has had more than its fair share of nonsense around it. First Hague declared Gaddafi was en route to Venezuela and today Kevin Maguire isn’t letting reality get in the way of a good story:
“The theory in Libyan exile circles is the squad was carrying explosives because it was on a sabotage mission. And it gets worse. The anti-Gaddafi Libyans assert the unit intended to destroy rebel positions and blame atrocities on Gaddafi’s forces, to stir up the civil war and win international sympathy, as well as targeting the Colonel’s military machine.”
And the source of this accusation of state sanctioned murder and war crimes? Well some bloke who is Libyan and “mixes with other Libyans in London”. Guido isn’t coming out to bat for Hague, but pull the other one Kev…
“A well-placed source” told Tim Shipman at The Mail today:
“Andrew Mitchell is very well thought of and familiar with all the issues. He sits on the National Security Council. He would have been sent over last year if William had gone and he’s still the man. William has lost his mojo. He seems tired and often unengaged. He just doesn’t seem that interested.”
Would that be the same cheerleaders that were promoting Mitchell as a new Chief Whip to Ben Brogan back in December:
“Andrew Mitchell’s supporters are promoting him as a suitable alternative, arguing that Mad Mitch knows a thing or two about plots and discipline”
He’s certainly displaying a dubious understanding of discipline with his briefings. His choice of words regarding Hague’s decline are remarkably similar to the thoughts Mitchell shared with the FT about the current Chief Whip in February: “The trouble is if you spend a long time as a Whip, the iron of cynicism starts to corrode your soul.” Guido knows the International Development job would be enough to corrode any man’s soul, but Mitchell is hardly being subtle in his desire to move on up. Is all that pillow talk going to his head?
There is an air of chaos in Westminster today. Firstly Craig Oliver was all in a spin after being refused entry by Downing Street security, but that’s nothing on the mess that the capture of the SAS troops and our “diplomat” in the desert has caused. Hague, who has taken his eye off various balls recently, looks like he is being hung out to dry on this one. He will be before the House at three thirty, but not before a Whitehall source mouthed off to the BBC confirming he personally authorised the mission, despite little evidence our overtures were welcome. It’s almost as if No.10 has other matters on their plate…
The Prince Andrew story has gone nuclear, not least because an-as-of-yet-un-named SpAd briefed in Cardiff over the weekend that “one more story” and Andrew would be out. Cue a mass shaking of the branch by every hack. Another briefing, perhaps by the same chatty character, said “no tears would be shed” at Andrews departure. A long cry from the official line this morning that the Duke has the government’s full confidence. It’s times like this that real weak spots are being exposed and a bad day for Dave and co to go gallivanting up north for a gimmicky Cabinet Away Day. No wonder it’s open season on SpAds according to Ben Brogan…
UPDATE: Mark Wallace notices that SpAd’s are even using Malcom Tucker’s favourite “omnishambles”. You could make it up…
As shots ring out over Bahrain, have a look at what a news agency out of Manama was reporting our switched on Foreign Secretary saying exactly a week ago:
“British Foreign Secretary William Hague paid tribute today to Bahrain’s tremendous democratic achievements brought about thanks to the wise leadership and reform project of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. He hailed the kingdom’s successful reforms expressing confidence Bahrain will build on them in the future.”
He went on to thank “Bahrain for its remarkable stances in the defence and security field adding that boosting consultation with the GCC countries regarding foreign policies is Britain’s top priority” Someone had their eye on the ball…
UPDATE: Given how much time Hague spent in Bahrain with his former SpAd, Chris Myers, you would have thought he would have clocked something was up.
According to his entry in the register of interests the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (c/o the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 30 Belgrave Square) donated the cost of hotel accommodation for two nights in Bahrain; £1,115.86 (9-11 January 2010) when he met the Foreign Minister of Bahrain. Perhaps he was distracted by something.
The only sitting MP to have been found guilty of breaking the Representation of the Peoples Act, Labour’s Kerry McCarthy, thought she was being funny when she highlighted that Morrissey and his old band mate Johnny Marr want to “ban” Dave from listening to The Smiths. A blatant test to see if he was a fan and the PM managed to reply with two song names. Obviously he went with“This Charming Man”, being the song that people who have never even heard of The Smiths have heard, however Guido wonders whether Dave really should have chosen, in reference to Hague, “William, It Was Really Nothing”. Was it the only other song he could think of?
Any Smiths fan could tell you the song is about trying to persuade a friend not to waste his life by getting married to someone for all the wrong reasons. Awkward…
Hillary Clinton said in her presser yesterday that “a counterpart” told her “well, don’t worry about it, you should hear what we say about you…” An interesting line, clearly from a native English speaker in its idiomatic use of “well” and “don’t worry about it”, which is bordering on slang. No one with English as a second language, however fluent, would ever come up with a line like that. Add a barbed sense of humour and the fingers are pointing at William Hague.
Talking of Hague, Guido isn’t the only one to have noticed that in the past few days former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind has been put on Sky News, BBC News, BBC Radio 2, 4, 5 and Channel Four speaking about Wikileaks and other foreign policy issues. It’s almost as if the current Foreign Secretary has been sidelined and a new spokesman found. Guido can’t think why Hague might not want to hit the airwaves to discuss why the Americans were featuring his personal life in their intelligence dossiers. Rifkind seems well on top of the brief still and would be high up the list of likely candidates for the job, were a vacancy to arise…
UPDATE: Paul Waugh questions why Hague isn’t representing the UK on the international stage in Kazakhstan tomorrow.
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Cathy Jamieson MP, Labour’s Shadow Treasury minister, commenting on Treasury analysis of the economic impact of tax changes…
“If the Treasury is looking at the economic impact of tax changes, then surely it should examine the impact of the rise in VAT and cuts to tax credits? George Osborne’s £12 billion VAT rise knocked confidence, helped to choke off the recovery and has cost families £1,350 over the last three years.”