Tom Richmond: Hail Hague, the man who saved us from disaster

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THE many apologies provided by the two Eds – Balls and Miliband – for the last government’s economic failings were done as part of a calculated political attempt to detoxify Labour’s reputation.

Both men have negative poll ratings – and that must be deeply worrying when the coalition remains on the back foot over its deficit reduction plans and the global financial crisis. Yet they did not say sorry to the one person who deserves the nation’s thanks for helping to save Britain from an even greater financial catastrophe – William Hague.

Isn’t it somewhat ironic, given the tumult throughout the eurozone as Greece’s economy implodes, that he lost the 2001 election by a landslide 10 years ago when the central thrust of his campaign was to “save the pound”?

By sticking to his guns on this argument, Hague was right on, arguably, the biggest economic question since the war – and he did enough to galvanise enough people within the Labour Party to prevent Tony Blair from taking Britain into the euro. This issue has been explored in the political commentator Peter Oborne’s brilliant pamphlet, Guilty Men, that has just been published by the Centre for Policy Studies.

He notes the strength of Blair’s personal attacks on Hague, including this speech to the Labour conference in 1999 in which the then PM claimed that the Conservative Party was made up of “the uneatable, the unspeakable and the unelectable”. Blair went on: “Under John Major, it was weak, weak, weak. Under William Hague, it’s weird, weird, weird. Far right, far out… the more useless they get, the more extreme they get.”

No wonder Hague, as Foreign Secretary, has been reluctant to use Blair’s services as a Middle East peace envoy. But, as Oborne notes, Blair was not the only culprit who was wrong to humiliate his opponent in this way. So, too, was the taxpayer-funded and supposedly impartial BBC.

In a nine week period in May 2000, Oborne reveals that the once influential Today programme featured 121 speakers on EU integration, with 87 pro-Europe compared to 34 Eurosceptics.

Hague may have been humiliated at the polls and is probably too modest to say “I told you so”. But he was right on the euro. He was also right on EU immigration – another issue that prompted a Miliband mea culpa.

And that is why no Labour apology for the past will be complete until the party says sorry for vilifying William Hague in such a shameful and disrespectful manner. After all, the word “Eurosceptic” – once used to lambast the likes of Hague – has virtually disappeared from contemporary political usage.

JOHN Prescott cut a slightly forlorn figure as he ambled through Hull’s Paragon Station on Monday morning before catching a train to London.

This has been the first Labour conference that Prescott has not attended in 40 years. Yet his absence from Liverpool did not stop Prescott from calling on Ed Miliband to use his new powers to sack those Shadow Cabinet members who are under-performing. That’s ironic. For, whenever the media speculated about reshuffles during the Blair-Prescott era, the then Deputy Prime Minister’s mantra was always one of loyalty – before accusing the media of stirring trouble.

TONY Blair – a man who knew how to win elections for Labour – has given a robust defence of his business interests and work as a Middle East peace envoy.

“I left office (in 2007) with two people and a mobile phone. I’ve now got about 150 people working for me,” says the former PM. Does that make him a “predator” or a “producer” in Ed Miliband’s test of business ethics?

Do tell Ed.

EQUALITIES busybody Harriet Harman – or should that be Harperson? – has been at it again.

Hattie’s Law means there must always be a woman as leader or deputy leader of the Labour Party. She says this is to help people like Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary and Pontefract MP, run for such jobs.

Cooper – better known as Mrs Ed Balls – swerved the 2010 all-male Labour leadership contest.

However I don’t think the Harman doctrine will help the sisterhood. Why? If they’re good enough, they will prevail. For it is policy – rather than gender – that should always come first.

IN many respects, the most striking political event of this week was the manner in which senior MPs David Davis and Alan Johnson spoke as one after BAE Systems announced 900 job losses at its Brough plant.

For the record, the senior and former Labour Home Secretary – who share neighbouring constituencies – have worked together for more than a decade on trying to secure new jobs for the site.

At a time when it is all too easy to criticise MPs for following the party line, their bi-partisanship has achieved considerable results in the past – and it can only be hoped that the pair succeed in safeguarding some of the threatened jobs at Brough.

This a classic case of how constituency MPs should work together for the good of their community.

IF any politician wants a lesson in team work, just look at the heroic cyclists who put in a monumental shift so Mark Cavendish could win a World Championship gold medal – the first won by a British rider since the era of Tommy Simpson.

They sacrificed their chances of individual glory to maximise the chances of Team GB coming first. Isn’t that what politics should also be about?

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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