Magazine article The Spectator

Leave Will Alone

Magazine article The Spectator

Leave Will Alone

Article excerpt

POOR William Hague. His spin doctor, Amanda Platell, is at it again. Having slipped up earlier in the summer over the diamond-pound-sign affair, she has come up with yet another wheeze (this woman has more wheezes than a chronic asthmatic). The unfortunate Mr Hague, we are informed, is about to be rebranded as the Incredible Tory Hunk.

It is commendable that Miss Platell feels obliged to justify her salary, but the idea fills me with grey horror. Mr Hague as a sort of people's Action Man, an anglicised melange of Brad Pitt, John Glenn and General MacArthur? It would be a rash person indeed who would put an optimistic spin on this one - unless of course they were Miss Platell.

Attempts to make Mr Hague look overtly sexy and he-mannish would be like dressing the Princess Royal in a Spice Girl's outfit. The aim would be to make him seem romantic but he would end up being ridiculous. We have already established, to Mr Hague's cost and our own, how ill-suited he is to the type of American-style casual clothing that is the standard uniform of the Hunk - a good example being the late John F. Kennedy Jnr. The physical type which best suits such a get-up is one of bland good looks. The rolled shirtsleeves work with Mr Blair, to a certain extent, because the Prime Minister, with his smarmy grin, resembles an actor in a minor B-movie. Mr Hague merely resembles a miner.

In any case, physical glamour is not as important in a politician as Miss Platell imagines. The electorate soon tires of it if there is little evidence of much else. Just look at Al Gore. If Miss Platell hopes to improve Mr Hague's popularity with women in this way, she is flogging a dead horse. Except to a few sex-crazed teenagers and a psychotic old maid or two, the filmstar type has only the superficial appeal of a prancing animal. Sensible women quickly penetrate the imposture. They come to see such males as intrinsically untrustworthy, self-centred and vain. What of Mr Blair? you ask. He retains his popularity, doesn't he? Well, up to a gender, Lord Copper. According to a recent poll in an Italian magazine, women across Europe have become more quickly disenchanted with the Prime Minister than have men.

Another point is that posturing in modish clothes smacks of the politics of dictatorship. Indeed, the nastier the politician or ruler, the ritzier his apparel. Nor does the `man of action' hold out great allure. There is a lot to be said for inaction - especially today. The trouble with most modern politicians is that they do too much. They are continually announcing some daft initiative or expensive programme and intervening in disastrous foreign wars that are none of their concern. They act without reflection. They are Macbeth and Othello when they should be Hamlet. They indulge in the kind of pointless activity for its own sake that Dr Johnson likened derisively to `getting on horseback on a ship'.

Yes, I agree, William Hague is not in the cliched heroic mould. It was indubitably the case that when one looked at him after his ascension to the leadership one did not immediately think either of dynamism or of what Thomas More used to refer to as `filthy fleshy things'. He was - and still is for the present, at least slight, balding and with a quiet aura, the trouble with quiet auras being that it is impossible to hear what they are saying.

The effect of this was both startling and immediate, on me at any rate It was in that instant, as he stood on the steps of Central Office, that I decided he was the right man to lead the Tory party. …

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