Hague must resign over new Ashcroft revelations

The Tory shadow foreign secretary is unfit for office.

So, after the Tories attempted to divert attention away from the Ashcroft affair with a crude assault on the trade union movement, today they find themselves back under the spotlight.

Papers leaked to the BBC show that William Hague was consistently kept informed about the negotiations of Ashcroft's tax status and that he was "satisfied" with the final outcome in July 2000. All of which seems rather at odds with the shadow foreign secretary's earlier claim that he only discovered Ashcroft's non-dom tax status a "few months" ago.

Hague's rather lame defence on the Today programme this morning was that he was not a "tax accountant", and that as leader of the opposition he had "a thousand and one problems at a time".

It may well be that, rather than engaging in an elaborate cover-up, Hague simply didn't realise that Ashcroft had wriggled out of paying his fair share (again). But neither option is particularly palatable. If he did know, then he's too wicked to hold office, and if he didn't know then he's too stupid.

Chris Huhne got it right this morning when he argued: "William Hague is not fit for any role in government, let alone that of foreign secretary."

Hague's importance to David Cameron cannot be overstated. The Tory leader's decision to appoint him as his de facto deputy in 2009 was a crucial move, designed to reassure the right of the party. He is one of the five shadow cabinet ministers who will lead the Tories' election campaign.

Hague must now show the sort of dignity that has been so lacking throughout this affair and resign his post.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What did Jeremy Corbyn really say about Bin Laden?

He's been critiqued for calling Bin Laden's death a "tragedy". But what did Jeremy Corbyn really say?

Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for describing Bin Laden’s death as a “tragedy” in the Sun, but what did the Labour leadership frontrunner really say?

In remarks made to Press TV, the state-backed Iranian broadcaster, the Islington North MP said:

“This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died.”

He also added that it was his preference that Osama Bin Laden be put on trial, a view shared by, among other people, Barack Obama and Boris Johnson.

Although Andy Burnham, one of Corbyn’s rivals for the leadership, will later today claim that “there is everything to play for” in the contest, with “tens of thousands still to vote”, the row is unlikely to harm Corbyn’s chances of becoming Labour leader. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.