Is William Hague finished? That's the sub-text to this interesting, even intriguing, Ben Brogan post in which The Telegraph's man in Cameronland goes so far as to suggst the Prime Minister "should fear for his colleague's state of mind." That's not all:
What can this mean? It seems to suggest that, whatever they say to Brogan and other journalists, many of Hague's parliamentary colleagues don't actually take the Foreign Secretary at his word. If they did then why would they suppose Hague will leave the FCO within a year and parliament at the next election?“
In a series of Commons conversations this morning I was struck by the number of Conservatives who believe Mr Hague’s political career is now over. Where he was previously talked of as an emergency replacement for George Osborne or even David Cameron in a bus scenario, he is now out of the running. No one expects him to serve beyond the Parliament, and many expect him to last no more than a year. His statements are leaving colleagues baffled, although it must be said they take him at his word (their views of Mr Coulson are another matter). [...] Mr Hague remains a vital Tory voice, but how effective can he be if his colleagues believe he is in the departure lounge?
True, Hague is a wealthy man and true too he could, one assumes, have a happy life outside parliament. But if his colleagues believe he has been ruined by the combination of (as best we know) entirely substanceless rumours and the release of an unusually personal statement then, frankly, when was the last* time a political career was undone by something so flimsy as this?
It is all very rum.
*You could, I suppose, argue that Peter Mandelson being forced from office by the (groundless) Hinduja Affair was comparable. But the Dark Lord had form and, anyway, enjoyed a third and even a fourth act.