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By Peter Hoskin
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The life of a Foreign Secretary is no doubt
always busy, but William Hague certainly does seem to have been busier than
usual this summer. First he helped run the country in the Prime Minister’s and
Deputy Prime Minister’s collective absence; then he was embroiled in the
ongoing Julian Assange case; and now he’s giving interviews about it all. The
Evening Standard features a particularly extensive conversation
with him today, which I’ve filtered down into these five quick points:

Winning the popularity contest. “When I was leader of the party there were always polls showing
I was the least popular,” observes Mr Hague, “Since I took no notice of these things
I’ve become more popular. So I
propose to go on taking no notice whatsoever.” I’ve pull this passage out not just because I like how
he says that he takes “no notice whatsoever” of “these things” but also knows
that his popularity has risen, but also because it’s startlingly true. Indeed,
a recent YouGov poll found
that Mr Hague was the most popular of six ministers — including Vince Cable —
with voters. As with Iain Duncan Smith, this turnaround from the Tory wilderness
years is quite astonishing.


Stand-off with Ecuador. So are we going to batter down the doors of Ecuadorian
embassy and yank Julian Assange out by his laptop wires? Don’t bet on it. For
starters, William Hague downplays the idea that this was ever going to happen, saying
that ““There’s never been a plan to storm the
embassy. I can’t see every situation that could arise, but we are not making a
threat against the Ecuadorean embassy.” And then he adds that the current
impasse could prevail “for a long time”. Barring progress on the diplomatic
front, it looks to be a question of how long Assange can stay indoors.

Ambassador for Boris Island? Hague treads a familiar line when it comes to Heathrow, pointing
out that the government promised not to allow a third runway. But then he adds
— in a way that invites interpretation — that, “I think for the long term the answer is
probably more radical”. Does he mean Boris
Island? Perhaps. In any case, the question of a Thames Estuary airport hasn’t
yet prompted an open and rabid split between the Tories and Lib Dems in
government, but it could do.

Never apologise… it’s a sign of weakness. There’s a touch of Captain Nathan Brittles in William
Hague’s call for what the Evening Standard describes as “the end of our post-empire apologetic
relations” — or as he puts it himself, “We have to get out of this
post-colonial guilt. Be confident in ourselves.”
And, in that spirit, he also has a few words to say about Iran, Syria and
Russia. His warnings may be more restrained than those we hear from, say, Mitt Romney, but they’re
there. And they typify how, from the current White House administration to
Westminster, Western politicians are substituting a ground war in Afghanistan
with what is, for now, a war of words against those three countries. This shift
may be obvious but it’s also one of the most
significant of the past four years.

Many years to come.
There’s been a question mark hovering over William Hague’s political career for
several years now: how long will he bother? When will he retire to a ranch to
write books? Yet, while retains a certain ambiguity on the matter in today’s
interview (as did in an interview with ConservativeHome),
he does suggest that he won’t be off at the next election. In his words, “It’s many years away.”

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