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Lord Hague has warned that Partygate is a ‘distraction’ from the ‘biggest period of crisis in our lifetimes’ as he ridiculed Rishi Sunak’s fine for ‘turning up to a meeting on time’.
The former foreign secretary raised concerns that politicians might not have the ‘bandwidth’ to focus on Ukraine, looming food shortages, and the aftermath of Covid.
Arguing most mistakes in government are made because senior figures are ‘concentrating on something else’, Lord Hague dismissed the idea that the Chancellor should have quit for inadvertently stumbling into a Cabinet Room birthday celebration for Boris Johnson in June 2020.
But he appeared to take a veiled swipe at the PM by noting that some politicians will never resign because they ‘think they can get out of anything’.
The comments came on an interview with former No10 spin doctor Andy Coulson’s Crisis What Crisis? podcast.
Lord Hague has warned in a podcast that Partygate is a ‘distraction’ from the ‘biggest period of crisis in our lifetimes’
Both Boris Johnson (left) and Rishi Sunak (right) received fines from police for breaching Covid lockdown rules
The former foreign secretary raised concerns that politicians might not have the ‘bandwidth’ to focus on Ukraine (pictured, Donetsk region yesterday) looming food shortages, and the aftermath of Covid
Asked to rate the geopolitical crisis on a scale of one to 10, Lord Hague said: ‘I’m very concerned. We’re on a scale of seven or eight out of 10 historically speaking I would say. This is certainly the biggest period of crisis in the lifetimes of most of us alive today.
‘Particularly when you add so many things together, when you add the Covid crisis we’ve been through, the Ukraine crisis we are living through now, then there’s a food crisis on top of that, all the gathering problems in relations between the United States and China.
‘This is more of a historical norm of course… we have been through the illusion that history had ended and that problems in the world had been largely abolished the last 20-30 years.
‘That’s why I say it is a 7-8 it’s not a 10. Previous generations lives through the First World War, Second World War.’
The Tory former leader said the Ukraine war was ‘top of the list’ and ‘could easily turn into a wider conflict’.
He expressed concern that domestic politics was ‘really preoccupied’ with Partygate – although he also stressed that was inevitable in a democracy.
‘In government there is only so much bandwidth… The people at the top only have so many hours in the day when they can think about things,’ Lord Hague said.
‘The main reason usually where they make what seems afterwards to be a terrible mistake on something is that they did it in a hurry, they were really concentrating on something else and then something just happened in a great rush where there wasn’t time to question the assumptions.’
During a discussion about political resignations, Lord Hague was asked whether Mr Johnson’s example over Partygate had shown that ‘not resigning is rather a good strategy’.
‘All these situations are different. It depends a lot on your own personality. To not resign you have to really be hungry to carry on. If you’re not hungry often it’s better to get out,’ the peer said.
‘Some of it has to come from a self-aware weighing up of whether you can still do the job effectively.
‘Some politicians don’t resign… because they lack self-awareness. Because they think they can get out of anything.’
Mr Hague said he quit after leading the Tories to abject defeat in the 2001 general election because he was ‘trying to be self-aware’ and decided ‘I can’t credibly do this’.
But he insisted whether people should resign depended on circumstances, and politicians needed to consider ‘does it help the overall situation and is it proportionate?’
‘We’ve just had a case for instance where the Chancellor of the Exchequer got a fine… basically for showing up on time to a meeting in the Cabinet Room where somebody produced a cake and he didn’t walk out,’ the peer said.
Lord Hague dismissed the idea that Rishi Sunak should have quit for inadvertently stumbling into a Cabinet Room birthday celebration for Boris Johnson in June 2020 (pictured from the Sue Gray report)
‘Is it right for the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a moment of great economic uncertainty to quit over that? I think not.’
On what should be resigning matters, Lord Hague added: ‘Losing a general election is, losing a referendum is, losing a war is. Turning up on time to a meeting probably isn’t.’
Lord Hague said that in hindsight David Cameron’s government might have held out more against holding a referendum on leaving the EU.
He suggested David Cameron could have made a better job of Brexit than his successors if he had stayed in power in 2016 – but admitted he had little choice but to go.
He said: ‘We would have had a better form of Brexit. However, the Conservative Party would have – it almost did anyway – torn itself to pieces…
‘Half the Conservative Party would have said he’s not a true believer… He would have come straight back round to having a constant crisis over his leadership.’
:: The podcast can be heard at