Hague comes face to face with Guido

Hague holds press conference with the unfortunately named German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle

If William Hague hoped that his extraordinary statement last night (on the day of a major book release) would end speculation about his private life, he was wrong. The story makes the front pages of no fewer than seven national newspapers and occupied the main debate slot on the Today programme this morning.

In a cruel twist of fate, Hague is in Germany this morning and has just held a press conference with the country's foreign minister, one Guido Westerwelle, who shares a Christian name with Hague's online tormenter. In another remarkable coincidence, Westerwelle is also openly gay.

Elsewhere, Hague has come under fire this morning from John Redwood, who argues, as my colleague Sholto Byrnes has, that it was, at the very least, "poor judgement" to share a hotel room with a special adviser.

Redwood also touches on the disquiet among Tory MPs over Hague's pragmatic approach to relations with the EU:

When will he implement the coalition's promise to end transfers of power to the EU or to give us a vote on such transfers? How does he fit in EU criminal justice changes to this policy? The mutterings I hear from fellow Conservative MPs relate to this, not to the state of his marriage.

The right has clearly spied an opportunity to scrutinise Hague's political life, as well as his personal affairs.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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I dined behind the Houses of Parliament in my sexually connected foursome

My wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple. We did not always check the significance of the date. 

I am self-employed and find that working from home, setting your own schedule, the days generally blur into each other, with weekends holding no significance, and public holidays, when those who are employed in factories, offices or shops get time off, meaning nothing. I am often surprised to go out and find the streets empty of traffic because it is some national day of observance, such as Christmas, that I wasn’t aware of. I find myself puzzled as to why the shops are suddenly full of Easter eggs or pancake batter.

Growing up in a Communist household, we had a distinct dislike for this kind of manufactured marketing opportunity anyway. I remember the time my mother tried to make me feel guilty because I’d done nothing for her on Mother’s Day and I pointed out that it was she who had told me that Mother’s Day was a cynical creation of the greetings card monopolies and the floral industrial complex.

Valentine’s Day is one of those I never see coming. It’s the one day of the year when even the worst restaurants are completely booked out by couples attempting to enjoy a romantic evening. Even those old-fashioned cafés you’ll find still lurking behind railway stations and serving spaghetti with bread and butter will tell you there’s a waiting list if you leave it late to reserve a table.

In the late 1980s my wife and I would sometimes dine out with another couple, he a writer and she a TV producer. One particular place we liked was a restaurant attached to a 1930s block of flats, near the Houses of Parliament, where the endless corridors were lined with blank doors, behind which you sensed awful things happened. The steel dining room dotted with potted palm trees overlooked a swimming pool, and this seemed terribly sophisticated to us even if it meant all your overpriced food had a vague taste of chlorine.

The four of us booked to eat there on 14 February, not realising the significance of the date. We found at every other table there was a single couple, either staring adoringly into each other’s eyes or squabbling.

As we sat down I noticed we were getting strange looks from our fellow diners. Some were sort of knowing, prompting smiles and winks; others seemed more outraged. The staff, too, were either simpering or frosty. After a while we realised what was going on: it was Valentine’s Day! All the other customers had assumed that we were a sexually connected foursome who had decided to celebrate our innovative relationship by having dinner together on this special date.

For the four of us, the smirking attention set up a strange dynamic: after that night it always felt like we were saying something seedy to each other. “Do you want to get together on Sunday?” I’d say to one of them on the phone, and then find myself blushing. “I’ll see if we can fit it in,” they’d reply, and we would both giggle nervously.

Things became increasingly awkward between us, until in the end we stopped seeing them completely. 

This article first appeared in the 25 May 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Why Islamic State targets Britain

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