Alex Massie

The Hague Affair

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This so-called story is fast becoming an ideal case study for any student of politcs and the British press. Neither party comes out of it looking especially good. I'm sure James is correct: the press wins (or loses, if that's how you view it) either way. If Hague ignores the innuendo then it's fodder for bloggers and diarists (and eventually columnists) and if he addresses the matter then that means that it's "officially" a story fit for public discussion. Heads gossip wins, tails Hague loses.

If the rumours about Hague's relationship with his young and now-former SpAd were true then, yes indeed, you'd have a scandal that would cost the Foreign Secretary his job. But as best one can see there's no evidence that there's any truth to the rumours at all. One might as well hint darkly at Hague's fondness for torturing kittens since there seems to be precious little less substance* to that idea than there is behind the whispering about his relationship with young Mr Myers.

This being so it becomes important to take a different line of attack. Sure, you say, there's (probably!) nothing to these rumours but it's Hague's fault anyway. Silly of him, you see, to provide grounds for suspicion. Or, actually, just the appearance of grounds for suspicion. Of course it's nonsense but it can look like something other than nonsense so it must be treated as something more than nonsense.

And so, as is traditional, the facts aren't actually important. Sod the truth, the appearance is all that matters. One can recognise that appearances do matter in politics without insisting that they must always trump reality. This seems to be one such case. For instance, Iain Martin regrets that "it's about judgement" and deplores a) Hague sharing a twin-room with Myers and b) Hague wearing a baseball cap. Is that it? Blimey!

Meanwhile, there's a second group of scolds complaining, absurdly, that Hague is "exploiting" his wife's miscarriages for his own political benefit. Good grief. I'm amazed that so many people not married to either William of Ffion Hague are so well-placed to rule on the intimate details of their relationship and decide what is proper and seemly for them to talk about in public.

Quite evidently, they'd rather not talk about their attempts to start a family. Equally evidently Hague's only mentioned this aspect of their marriage because, as we all know, the fact they don't have children has been included in the dossier of nudges and winks designed to suggest that the Foreign Secretary is not quite the family man he would have you believe, if you know what I mean...

But so what if he ain't? I don't care and can't see how it is anyone's business absent there being any question of an abuse of power and suchlike. But as best one can tell there's precisely zero evidence for this and, consequently, the whole affair is characteristically disgraceful and it's hard to see who comes out of it worse: the tittle-tattlers, those who pretend to condemn them while secretly loving their work or the concern trolls who "sympathise" with the Hagues while denying them the right to defend themselves as they see fit.

In other words, it's just business as usual.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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