Libya intervention: Hague caught in Cabinet split
The Mole: Neo-cons want action now – Hague insists on sticking to the orthodox Foreign Office line
The Grimond Room will be more crowded than usual, the Mole suspects, on Wednesday afternoon when the great northern soul artist, William Hague, will be giving a rendition of his latest hit to members of the Commons select committee for foreign affairs: "I've got my mojo working."
Hague used an interview with Patrick Hennessy in the Sunday Telegraph to deny the muttering campaign among Tory MPs that the Foreign Secretary has lost his mojo.
"People tell me there's a newspaper article saying I lack energy, presumably written by some lounge lizard who's rolled up at 11am and wondered what to write about - without being rude about journalists! - when I'm already on my second country that day," he said. "We've put a huge amount of new energy into British foreign policy."
Challenged by Hennesssy about his "missing mojo", Hague laughed. "If some of the people who write about mojo came with me for a week, they would drop dead on their feet. Is that a clear enough answer?"
Hague's problem is that it doesn't matter how loud he claims he still has it, while he appears to dither on intervening in Libya he still can't convince his erstwhile friends that he has still got his soul in his day job as Foreign Secretary. The word among Tory MPs is that Hague is a shadow of the man they once elected as leader of the Conservative Party.
What has happened to the skinhead who fought a general election on the campaign to "save the pound"? They knew where they stood with the earlier Hague - anti-eurofederalist, sound on the pound, Thatcherite in every pore.
Where is the Hague, his friends are asking, who in his tousled youth, with vowels as flat as a Rotherham cap, once told Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet that he wanted to be "free"? The neo-con Hague has disappeared and been replaced by a Foreign Office automaton, weighed down with the orthodoxy of his office.
It is perplexing for Hague's free thinking neo-con colleagues in the Cabinet, such as Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. Gove is said to have called at a recent Cabinet office for a more neo-conservative, interventionist approach to foreign affairs, harking back to the days of bomber Blair.
As the Libyan crisis erupted, David Cameron sounded far more Blairite in his support for action against Gaddafi. George Osborne, the Chancellor, privately backed Cameron in arguing for tougher intervention on Libya. This has all made Hague sound a bit of a wet, and out of step with the Tory high command, in his efforts to stick to the Foreign Office brief.
However, he did at least tell Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "We are now reaching a point of decision, very clearly, on what happens next. Clearly a no-fly zone is one of the leading propositions. It isn't the answer to everything but it has been called for by the Arab League and is something which the international community must now consider."
Hague is also due to meet fellow G8 foreign ministers in Paris tonight, and is likely they will discuss partially lifting the ban on arms supplies to Libya to allow arms shipments to the rebels to help them combat the superior firepower of Col Gaddafi's security forces.
Meanwhile, with no decision taken, Gaddafi appears to be winning the civil war in his country, and Hague has acknowledged that the dictator may be able to stay in power for the foreseeable future.
"If Gaddafi went on to be able to dominate much of the country, this would be a long nightmare for the Libyan people and this would be a pariah state for some time to come," said Hague.
Hague ought to remember that he may think he's got his mojo working, but the lines of his song go on: "It don't seem to work on YOU''.
That could apply to the Tory MPs who once looked to him to lead them back to the promised land of Thatcherism. Unless he changes his tune, they fear he's going to be stuck in a Lib-Con wilderness, and Gaddafi will be allowed to wreak havoc on his people. ·
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