Chapter 51: Strength Through Unity
Hague's campaign slogan was a bit on the nose
“We will show that social responsibility can go hand in hand with personal ambition. We will stand up for responsibility. We will stand up for thrift. Those are values this country needs today. The SDP's leaders say only they stand for fairness. Fairness? These SDP ministers, saddling future generations with debt? These SDP ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence? Their “fairness” is phoney. So let’s turn our anger into passion and our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs. Yes if we win the next election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government. But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country." - William Hague Rally Speech in North Yorkshire (2009)
The great and good of the National Party would gift their endorsements to William Hague, some through with a smile, some with gritted teeth. The party’s iron-clad unity, imposed by the magic circle, had to be maintained. Even committed reformists like Mark Oaten, David Laws and Anna Soubry gave their backing to Hague. National’s liberal wing knew they didn’t have the numbers to challenge Hague, and decided they could make the best of a bad situation and coax Hague towards the centre ground. The hardliners on the other hand were more divided, some of the hardliner’s leading civilian MPs such as Liam Fox and David Bannerman backed Hague, but many of those on the party’s more radical wing, especially those with a military background, were outraged at the party for supporting a state educated civilian from Rothertham.
National's old guard wanted "someone from the right stock" to take over the party
Shadow Housing Secretary David Richards would announce his intention to challenge Hague. A former General, Richards had served as a junior Foreign Affairs minister under Hill-Norton, whilst he had gone along with the transition to democracy and couldn’t be considered a radical Juntista, he was keen to see the military keep its role at the top of British politics. He was an old fashioned Mountbattenite, combining one-nation mixed economic policy with a dash of patriotism and veneration for authority. Richards said under his leadership, National would put “traditional military values of respect, discipline and competence” at the heart of it’s pitch to the public. The stage was set for the future of National, the private school general vs the state educated son of a small businessman.
In a way this was the ideal showdown for Hague, winning the battle with Richards would be the perfect signal to show the public National had changed. Hague would rather a cultural battle between National’s military and civilian politicians rather than a political bout between it’s warring factions. Despite being backed by the outgoing leader and most of the party establishment Hague could now present himself as the change candidate for a new, tolerant and democratic National Party. The campaign would be short, each of the two men had a week to persuade votes from their parliamentary colleagues. It was a new kind of battle, where tea rooms and smoking areas formed the arena.
“William Hague has said he is "taking nothing for granted" and that he "had a lot of work to do". As his campaign to be next National Leader picks up steam. "I have got a lot of colleagues that I want to talk to in the House of Commons and listen to their views and try to attract as many votes as I can. So there are a lot of conversations to have," he said. Former General Secretary Sir Malcom Rifkind was joined by eight other MPs today in backing Mr Hague. As well as the shadow justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, they included Nick Harvey, David Curry, Charles Hendry and John Horam. Rising star Jeremy Clarkson also announced he was also joining the Hague camp. With Mr Hague seeming to storm ahead, Sir Malcolm admitted he felt "enormous sympathy" for Hague's opponent, David Richards." - Hague’s Backing Grows, Oliver King, The Guardian (2009)
Hague was proficient in the games of backroom politics
Richards was a politician for the Mountbattenite age, if the Junta had survived another twenty years he might well have become First Lord, but he was not suited to the modern politics of mass media. The National Caucus had also changed greatly since he had been in government, after a raft of retirements at the 2009 election, civilians MPs outnumbered military men 2-1 on the blue benches. Of the soldiers that remained in the Commons many of them were newer younger politicians, many of them former squaddies rather than officers. Apart from a small cabal of colonels and a few conservative civilian MPs, Richards had no real political base to speak of. The old general never stood a chance as the tides of history washed against him.
At a packed meeting of the Broadlands Committee of National MPs, General Secretary Michael Gove announced the results. It was a landslide for Hague, who secured the support of 175 MPs to Richards’ 37. In Hague’s victory speech outside Parliament, he promised to “prove to the country the National Party has the leadership, the team and the policies to lead Britain into the future” he criticised “President Johnson” for “ramming through” reforms to social policy and the military without giving “Parliament and civil society the time to process, debate and come to a consensus”. Above all Hague stressed his party would bring unity in the face of “aggression from all wings of politics, in a country besieged by separatists and extremists”.
William Hague Shadow Cabinet 2009 -
- Leader of the Opposition - William Hague
- Deputy Leader of the Opposition - Theresa May
- Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer - David Davis
- Shadow Foreign Secretary - Ian Blair
- Shadow Justice Secretary - Ed Davey
- Shadow Defence Secretary - Nicholas Soames
- Shadow Home Secretary - David Richards
- Shadow Development Secretary - Nick Harvey
- Shadow Education Secretary - Jeremy Clarkson
- Shadow Industry, Tourism and Trade Secretary - Jim Davidson
- Shadow Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Secretary - David Bannerman
- Shadow Public Administrations Secretary - David Laws
- Shadow Culture Secretary - Bob Stewart
- Shadow Health Secretary - Jeremy Hunt
- Shadow Environment Secretary - Priti Patel
- Shadow Housing Secretary - Andrea Leadsom
As well as keeping his enemies close by giving top jobs to Theresa May and David Davis, Hague aimed to promote new talent to his Shadow Cabinet, with younger MPs such as Ed Davey, Nick Harvey and Jeremy Clarkson all promoted to the top table. He kept some military figures such as Nicholas Soames and David Richards in key national security positions, but overall the number of soldiers around the Shadow Cabinet table dropped. He also strove to balance out the reformists and hardliners in his cabinet, with ultra-conservative darlings like Jim Davidson sitting across from David Laws, a gay man and one of the party’s leading Liberals. Hague had avoided a split, now he had to steer the ship.
“William Hague has begun forming his opposition team. David Davis the former shadow Foreign Secretary returns to the front bench as Shadow Chancellor. Ken Clarke, will chair a policy group on social justice, one of six being set up by Mr Hague But he will not return to the Shadow Cabinet. On his first day as leader, Mr Hague announced that his close political ally, Jeremy Clarkson will be promoted to the Education brief. David Richards, whom he defeated in the leadership election, gets a post as shadow Home Secretary. Nicholas Soames gained the high-profile defence post. Development Secretary David Willetts, resigned from the Shadow Cabinet after being offered a demotion to Agriculture. 33 year old Liz Truss was named as Hague's Chief of Staff and policy guru, she will oversee a wholesale review of the party's programme.” - Hague’s Shadow Cabinet Takes Shape, The Times (2009)
Think Tank Director Liz Truss became one of the most powerful people in National overnight