Hague’s statement was too risky, say PR experts
The Mole: Former editors say Hague’s statement is a huge temptation to the Sunday tabloids
Needless to say, the William Hague story has not gone away despite his issuing a statement on Wednesday afternoon denying any sexual relationship with 25-year-old Chris Myers - or any other man for that matter.
The question now is whether his statement has exacerbated the problem begun by blogger Guido Fawkes rather than drawn a line under it.
It was by any standards an extraordinarily personal statement to make. In an apparent attempt to reassure the public of his heterosexual credentials, he revealed that he and his wife Ffion have tried throughout their 13-year marriage to start a family, but that she has suffered repeated miscarriages.
The most recent miscarriage occurred this summer and the couple were, he said, still grieving for the lost pregnancy.
"We have never made this information public because of the distress it would cause to our families and would not do so now were it not for the untrue rumours circulating which repeatedly call our marriage into question," Hague said. "We wish everyone to know that we are very happily married."
He admitted that he and Myers had shared hotel rooms occasionally but there was nothing sinister or sexual about it.
Not surprisingly, the statement - available on The First Post in full - has brought an outpouring of sympathy from his supporters, especially in his Yorkshire constituency.
But it has also prompted the PR fraternity to question the wisdom of responding so publicly and so personally to what was innuendo and gossip.
The veteran PR man Max Clifford said: "The point of PR is to make the situations that you find yourself in better. Before he went public about what was on the internet, most of the British public was totally unaware of these allegations.
"Now people are saying, 'Why is a rich man, a multi-millionaire, sharing a room with another man?' If this young guy turns out to have had sexual relationships in the past it doesn't prove that William Hague is gay - but he will be finished."
Phil Hall, another PR consultant, said: "I would have advised him to take the legal route, to get damages from websites circulating these stories and then go public once you've got that official stamp. The Sunday papers will now be crawling over the private life of this young man [Myers]."
Hall should know - he is a former editor of the News of the World.
Ian Monk, another newspaper executive turned PR adviser, said: "If one word of his statement is less than 100 per cent true then it is a colossal hostage to fortune."
But a former Tory official told the Evening Standard today that he felt Hague had no option. "The story was all over Westminster. He had to say something."
Such is the luck of politicians in circumstances like this that when Hague went back to work this morning his first appointment was with a man called Guido - not the blogger but the German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle - who is openly gay. ·
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