It’s a truism in journalism that it isn’t the scandal which does the damage, but the subsequent cover-up. So it might be with William Hague, Her Majesty’s Secretary and all things Foreign, and, as far as I’m concerned, an all-round good egg. And because I like and respect the guy, I am rather disappointed by the ham-fisted way he appears to be handling the situation.
I was first told that he was gay — or rather was thought to be gay — several years ago by a colleague and friend who — I hope I get this straight (absolutely no silly joke intended there) — heard it from a friend of the ex-boyfriend of his sister, or the brother of the ex-girlfriend of his brother, or something or other (doesn’t inspire much confidence, does it, but there you go, that’s the problem with unsubstantiated rumours which might not have a leg to stand on). Apparently, whoever it was knew him well and said so. (I repeat my aside about tittle-tattle not inspiring much confidence.) At the time, I thought it was nonsense. But then all this business came up and I heard rather more credible info, including the comment, made after Hague released his PA statement, ‘well, that’s a hell of a hostage to fortune. What will he do when one of his ex-lovers comes forward?’
I gather that there is 100 certainty that Hague is gay, that he was at the centre of a Tory gay mafia while at Oxford (note to foreign readers: while a student of one of the colleges there, not just visiting the town) and that Ffion is his beard (and if that is the case, I like to believe — remember, I am a fan of Hague’s and like to think he is an honourable man — that she was squared from the off and wasn’t just cynically used). So I come back to be original point: it is not the ‘scandal’, but the refutations and rebuttals which cause the damage.
Furthermore, the true irony is that for the first time for many, many years in Britian, no one gives a fuck whether or not a politician is gay, although what does upset Joe Public is apparent hypocrisy, i.e. someone attacking gays is subsequently revealed himself to be gay. I cannot say so for certain, but being gay is really not regarded as even being remarkable these days, except, again ironically, by the worthy left-of-centre broadsheets who
insist on publishing tacky Pink Lists of the ‘most influential’ and richest gays to demonstrate how liberal, broadminded and tolerant they are. (My picture is of a generic influential and wealthy gay, quite possibly the editor of the Guardian dressed for work.) From Peter Mandelson, Nick Brown and Chris Bryant on the Left to Alan Duncan and Nick Herbert on the Right — and not forgetting David Laws — from Graham Norton and John Barrowman to Lord Browne (once of BP) and Andrew Pierce of the Mail, all are now mainstream and their sexuality is the least interesting thing about them. There was a ‘scandal’ of a sort over Lord Browne, but it didn’t centre on his homosexuality but that he told a lie to hide that fact he got to know his then partner through a gay dating website. Then there are the legions of gays who seem to be able to lead perfectly open lives these days with no one giving a fuck. And thank God for that.
So if what I have heard is right, what on earth is Hague playing at? Good Lord, if the worst comes to the worst and the News of the Screws carries loads of ‘reports’ from all sorts of men about ‘spending nights of passion with William’, he is going to look like a complete pillock. One explanation could be that he has been closeted for so long that he calculates coming out would do more damage than staying in; or that, as was the case with David Laws, his family don’t know and he would prefer they didn’t.
I cannot say exactly why I like Hague, although it is partly his wit which, as far as I know, is unmatched in the Commons, and his intelligence, but I do like him and wish him well. And I hope for his sake that this whole business is concluded without damage. Today the papers carry reports that he has been soured with the political scene and might jack it all in, reports which, as far as I’m concerned, are simply exercises in journalistic kite-flying; and that he is independently wealthy and doesn’t need the money (or something like that), but I think that is unlikely. The world first came across Hague when as a 16-year-old and with a full head of hair he made a speech at a Conservative Party conference. I think that politics is in his DNA and is Foreign Secretary. I really cannot see him packing it in. So, I wish him the best. And I do so hope I am wrong. Use your loaf, William.