Thursday, February 16, 2006


Just another reason to admire William Hague - my favorite British politician.

There was a packed house in Parliament today when William Hague faced his old adversary Tony Blair over the dispatch box for the first time since resigning as Tory leader in 2001.

An accomplished debater since his teenage years, Mr Hague used to look forward to the regular Commons duel of Prime Minister's Questions, when he often succeeded in scoring points against Mr Blair.

Tory backbenchers relished those battles, roaring their approval, stamping their feet and waving their order papers when their young champion wrongfooted the Labour leader again.

"It was always like the Glasgow Empire on a Saturday night when Hague and Blair were at it hammer and tongs," one Tory said before today's encounter. "I'm looking forward to the show."

Mr Hague's secret, it is claimed, was to confuse Mr Blair by combining several subjects in one question, with key words at the beginning and end of the alphabet. This meant that the Prime Minister had to scrabble through his alphabetical briefing notes, from one end to the other and back again, leaving him no time to formulate a sensible answer...

Today Mr Hague was back, standing in for the new Tory leader David Cameron, who is away on paternity leave. Rising to his feet to a House of Commons audience so full that MPs stood packed together in the aisles, Mr Hague swiftly proved that he had not lost his mastery of the arcane skill of rolling the Prime Minister a googly.

"It's probably the first time in history at Question Time that all three parties have been represented by a stand-in for the real leader," he remarked by way of an introduction.
That's a sly reference to Tony Blair's promise to resign in favor of Gordon Brown any time now. I actually, by chance, caught a few moments of this on C-SPAN early Wednesday morning. Wish I'd seen Hague's opening line.

Hague is due in the US today to lead the Tory rapprochement with the White House. Michael Howard's convenient attacks on the Iraq War and Blair created a rift between the Tory party and the White House while he was head of the Tory party. Now, with a "compassionate conservative," pro Iraq Tory heading the party, the moment is ripe to close the rift.

I doubt this difference will signify while the widely admired Blair remains in office. But when he is replaced by Old Labour Gordon Brown, I think the natural alliance between the Republicans and the Tories will reform.
There is a long tradition of British Conservatives coming to America to glean political tactics and ideas. William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, the influential neo-conservative magazine, said the Tories might be pleasantly surprised to find this time it would be a "two-way exchange."

He added: "The Republicans are in a rough patch and need some fresh thoughts. They have in common a need for new thinking especially in domestic policy. It is not as if conservatives are agreed on what the solution is. There is a fair amount of interest in what the Tories are doing."


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