Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
18 March 2010

Hague must resign over new Ashcroft revelations

The Tory shadow foreign secretary is unfit for office.

By George Eaton

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.