Friday, 12 June 2009

William Hague in fine form on Peter Mandelson

You can read the whole text of William Hague's speech in Hansard here but here's a few extracts:
"In mentioning Lord Mandelson, I did not mean to send a chill down the spine of Ministers, but it is now impossible to discuss the operation of government or Parliament without reference to his opinions. The unelected Prime Minister has managed to produce the most powerful unelected deputy since Henry VIII appointed Cardinal Wolsey—except that Cardinal Wolsey was more sensitive in his handling of colleagues than the noble Lord Mandelson is. His personal retinue of 11 Ministers, six of whom attend on him in the House of Lords, is the largest in the Government. The growth of the unelected portion of Her Majesty’s Government is further evidence of the need for the dissolution of Parliament. We also need the fresh air of electoral competition to blow through the dark recesses of several Departments.

The Prime Minister who lectures us all on democratic renewal is appointing peers to positions of power on a scale unknown for decades. There are now more peers attending the Cabinet than at any time since the days of Harold Macmillan. Half the Ministers in the Foreign Office now sit in the House of Lords or are about to do so, including no less a figure than the new Minister for Europe. So after years in which hon. Members in all parts of the House have called for better democratic scrutiny of EU decision making, we have arrived at a situation where elected Members of Parliament will be unable to question the Minister for Europe at all and where, a week before an important EU summit, the Minister is not available to either House of Parliament. That is not democratic renewal, but democratic reversal by the Prime Minister.


The Lord Mandelson, denied the opportunity to become Foreign Secretary by the sad combination of a Prime Minister too weak to remove his Foreign Secretary and, equally, a Foreign Secretary too weak to challenge the Prime Minister, has gone around instead collecting titles and even whole Departments to add to his name. His title now adds up to, “The right hon. the Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham, First Secretary of State, Lord President of the Privy Council and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills”. It would be no surprise to wake up in the morning and find that he had become an archbishop— [Laughter]. That is exactly what happened with Cardinal Wolsey.

We are left with a Government held together solely by fear. The Prime Minister is unable to remove Ministers in whom he has lost faith, for fear that they will quit altogether; Ministers are unwilling to challenge a Prime Minister in whom they have lost faith, for fear that they will no longer be Ministers; Labour Back Benchers are unwilling to remove a Prime Minister in whom they have certainly lost faith, for fear of having to have an election—and all of them are living in fear of one Minister with a very long title for whom, at the last election, no one in the country ever voted at all."

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