William Hague warns Boris Johnson of 'cold anger' from Conservative MPs

Boris Johnson is in urgent need of loyal new advisers if he is he is to survive the “cold anger” of Tory MPs towards him, William Hague has warned.

William Hague has warned Boris Johnson will be in "serious trouble" unless he changes his approach to governing rapidly.
William Hague has warned Boris Johnson will be in "serious trouble" unless he changes his approach to governing rapidly.

Writing in The Times, the Rotherham-born former Conservative leader, who was MP for Richmond, said that political leaders need advisers who are “completely frank and total loyal” and praised his own chief whip, “the laconic but brutally truthful James Arbuthnot”.

Lord Hague said: “If an MP was desperate for a job, he told me that, and if they were plotting my doom, he somehow knew all about it and would pass that on, too.”

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He contrasted that situation with last week’s mass rebellion by backbench Tory MP against Covid Plan B measures, which were reported to have taken Downing Street by surprise in terms of their scale.

“As MPs seethe with gossip about the party leadership, that has to make us wonder what else Downing Street doesn’t know,” he said.

“Whatever relationship Boris has with his chief whip, Mark Spencer, it looks very much as if they need a new relationship, or he needs a new chief whip.”

Lord Hague said another worrying signal for the Prime Minister is the recent resignation of Brexit minister David Frost.

“It does not say much for him that, having been plucked from nowhere by Johnson to be a political soulmate, elevated to the Lords and seated at the cabinet table — preferment that no other leader would ever have given him — he flounces off as soon as he disagrees with something,” he said.

“But it also suggests there is something wrong at the very centre of command when such a close comrade walks off the battlefield.”

He said in contrast with the need for advisers who are able to combine “fierce loyalty with speaking truth to power”, Mr Johnson has an “atmosphere in which core advisers such as Dominic Cummings denounce their former boss as a “shopping trolley” veering this way and that, and Frost quits and attacks the political direction of the government”.

Lord Hague said Mr Johnson will be in “serious trouble” unless new advisers are authority to create order and consistency.

“I have watched and listened to MPs in every leadership crisis of the past three decades or so, including the overthrow of Margaret Thatcher. They have always moved slowly and agonisingly to act, torn by inner conflict and uncertainty about what to do.

“This time I detect a cold anger, shorn of much of the agonising, as they begin to set their own private deadlines for the narrative of chaos to end. They are not yet reaching for the assassins’ knives but they are checking, with a business-like efficiency, that they know where they left them.

“Boris needs his own James Arbuthnots, while building a culture in which good advice can flourish. If I was him, I would build that with the greatest of speed.”

North Shropshire by-election disaster was avoidable, says Hague

Conservative MPs are “incensed” about the North Shropshire by-election result after the Tories lost the once-safe seat to the Lib Dems last week, Lord Hague said.

The by-election was called following the resignation of Owen Paterson after Downing Street withdrew their backing for the veteran MP in a lobbying row.

Lord Hague said: “There was a shred of comfort for the Tories in that many voters preferred to abstain than to switch sides. Most MPs, however, are incensed that the election need never have taken place at all, had the row over Owen Paterson been handled with appropriate sensitivity and contrition.

"Throw in the deeply damaging cascade of allegations about Downing Street parties and it does not take a top political analyst to work out that the necessary combination of frankness, loyalty and well-judged deliberation is missing from No 10.”

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