By Matthew Barrett
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The first big-hitter to be interviewed properly about the terrible headlines of the past few days was William Hague, who appeared on the Andrew Marr Show earlier this morning. The Foreign Secretary was first asked about Francis Maude's handling of the fuel strike situation:
"It has been a controversial week is the way I would put it but that happens in the life of government. Those things certainly happen and we have seen that on many, many previous occasions and over many governments including very successful governments. So I don't think we should be phased or deterred by that. Yes some things have been happening that the government has had to face up to. Of course there has been the threatened fuel tanker strike. I think [how] my colleagues have handled these things would have been criticised either way had they not set out the precautions that people should take and alerted people to the situation. Then if a strike took place in the coming weeks it would be said that they had been complacent and hadn't prepared the country. The country is in a better state of preparedness than it was a week ago in the eventuality of a petrol tank strike, so I think they have handled that correctly. But of course controversies arise over things like that."
Importantly, Mr Hague hinted that the Government is still preparing for a strike – despite the fact ACAS talks begin on Monday:
"Well I am saying, as I said on the business of fuel supplies, I think ministers would have been criticised either way. My colleagues have done absolutely the right thing to urge people to take sensible precautions and I think they will be vindicated by events of the coming."
Mr Hague insisted that the Government will be judged on its whole policy programme in 2015, rather than just the odd week of negative headlines:
“We should always take seriously criticism, but what the government has to do is very simple, which is to make sure that what the government is doing succeeds. But if you look at the budget, the measures to reduce corporation tax, to take lower paid people out of income tax altogether, these are absolutely the right things to get businesses growing in our country, to make sure it pays to work and that people have an incentive work and these measures will stand the test of time."
Mr Hague was also asked whether the Government is out of touch, following polling in today's papers showing the public think it is:
"A government that is in touch is one that delivers the sort of things the country needs. Look at our education reforms, our welfare reforms. These are radical measures that are being carried out over several years, over the life of this Parliament. So the test of the Coalition government will be the success of reforms like that… people will be able to vote on that at the next general election. But that will be the test rather than the chatter or criticism of one particular week, two years into the Parliament or three or four years into it."