2 Sep 2010

PM backs William Hague over rumours

David Cameron has given William Hague his “100 percent” support as the Foreign Secretary attempts to draw a line under the “malicious allegations” over his relationship with a special aide.

At a press conference with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle this morning, William Hague told reporters: “Yesterday I made a very personal statement, which was not an easy thing to do. I am not going to expand on that today.

“My wife and I really felt we had had enough of the circulation of untrue allegations, particularly on the internet, and at some point you have to speak out about that and put the record straight.”

The foreign secretary faces pressure over suggestions yesterday that the appointment of one of his advisers, 25-year-old Christopher Myers, was due to an improper relationship. The allegations seem to originate from the fact that Mr Myers and Mr Hague shared hotel rooms during the election.

But Mr Hague said the suggestions of an improper relationship are “utterly false”.

He also denied his marriage to wife Ffion was in trouble, revealing personal details in an extraordinary personal statement released yesterday.

He revealed that he and Ffion have suffered the trauma of multiple miscarriages as they try to start a family, adding that they are grieving the loss of a pregnancy this summer.

Mr Hague admitted to “occasionally” sharing hotel rooms with Mr Myers during the election, but said: “Neither of us would have done so if we had thought that it in any way meant or implied something else.”

Mr Myers has resigned since the allegations were published, citing the “pressure on his family from the untrue and malicious allegations made about him”.

Christopher Myers: William Hague's Special Advisor (SpAd)
Chris Myers quit the £30,000 role as Mr Hague's SpAd just weeks into the job. It emerged only last Monday that Mr Hague had taken on Mr Myers as a third SpAd – despite the coalition government's criticism of the high number of aides and spin doctors employed under Labour.

Mr Hague's three advisers cost the taxpayer up to £158,200 per year – official figures show.

The Cabinet Office argues that Mr Hague's extra title of First Secretary of State carries more official duties than that of his predecessor David Miliband – who had two official advisers.

The need to employ the apparently inexperienced 25-year old Mr Myers as a SpAd has been questioned.

He was employed by Mr Hague during the general election campaign as a constituency aide before being promoted to a SpAd this summer. Like Hague, Myers hails from Yorkshire. A history graduate of Durham University, he went on to study law but turned down a two-year training contract – and therefore the chance to practice. He joined the Hague campaign trail. It was on the trail that the two men occasionally shared a bedroom.

Special Advisers are employed as temporary civil servants, and as such they are exempt from the general rule that civil servants should be appointed on merit. SpAds are subject to the Official Secrets Act and are hired as an "additional resource" for ministers.

Their positions are designated as "sensitive posts", according to the Cabinet Office, with their work ranging from reviewing papers, fact checking and researching for ministers, to speechwriting, attending Party functions, liaising with the media and providing expert advice to the minister.

Political blogger Guido Fawkes wrote yesterday that eyebrows were raised at Conservative HQ when William Littlejohn, Hague's well connected and respected press officer for the last two years, was passed over in favour of Mr Myers.

He added: "It is surely inappropriate for someone of William Hague's status to be sharing a night in a hotel room with his driver - you only have to consider how absurd it would be if his driver were female to see it is completely bizarre even if there were two beds.

"The appointment of Hague's former driver to his private office is controversial because 25-year-old Myers has no expertise for the job, no relevant experience and his only qualification for the position is his closeness to the Foreign Secretary.'

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Hague has “100 per cent support” from Prime Minister David Cameron.

Former Tory cabinet minister MP John Redwood wrote in his blog today that he “cannot ignore” the rumours surrounding Mr Hague.

He said he hoped Mr Hague’s “unusual statement” would put an end to the matter, adding: “Mr Hague himself now seems to believe that it was poor judgement to share a hotel room with an assistant.”

Labour leadership contender Ed Balls told BBC Radio 2 that he and his wife Yvette had often suffered “smears and innuendo and lies said about us on these right-wing blogs”.

However, he said it came hand in hand with politics today, adding: “I’m not sure whether going out and making a public statement in that detail is the wisest thing to do.

“I think it probably gives more credibility to some of these websites and to allegations which aren’t true.

“I’ve no reason to think that there’s anything other than complete integrity in what William Hague says and I feel sorry for him and for Ffion in going through this.”

Political Correspondent Cathy Newman says a close friend of William Hague suggested the foreign secretary was so fed up with politics and the press he could quit altogether.

“It’s not out of the question that he could just say ‘**** it, I’m off’ in which case The Daily Mail and Guido Fawkes will have dealt a devastatingly destructive blow to British politics.,” the friend said.

However, another said the idea he could leave the government was “ridiculous”.

Cathy Newman added: “It is such a personal statement and that is very unusual for a politician – and there is a danger that this merely keeps the story going.

“And then there is that admission that he and his aide did share a hotel room on numerous occasions and some will question whether that’s right for a senior politician and a junior aide to do that.”

Mr Myers was employed by Mr Hague during the campaign as a constituency aide and had worked for the foreign secretary as a policy adviser while apparently sharing the room.

Mr Hague said: “In hindsight I should have given greater consideration to what might have been made of that, but this is in itself no justification for allegations of this kind, which are untrue and deeply distressing to me, to Ffion and to Christopher.”

Mr Hague continued: “He has now told me that, as a result of the pressure on his family from the untrue and malicious allegations made about him, he does not wish to continue in his position.

“It is a pity that a talented individual should feel that he needs to leave his job in this way.”

The foreign secretary then said he felt it was important to provide background information to his marriage to Ffion.

He said: “I have made no secret of the fact that Ffion and I would love to start a family. For many years this has been our goal. Sadly this has proved more difficult for us than for most couples.

“We have encountered many difficulties and suffered multiple miscarriages, and indeed are still grieving for the loss of a pregnancy this summer.

“We are aware that the stress of infertility can often strain a marriage, but in our case, thankfully, it has only brought us closer together. It has been an immensely traumatic and painful experience but our marriage is strong and we will face whatever the future brings together.”