A Tory titan retires
William, it was really nothing
The Conservatives bid farewell to a talented parliamentarian
THE high esteem in which William Hague is held was evident on March 26th even amid the Conservative leader of the House of Commons's shabby last act. To mark the end of the parliament, which also concluded his 26-year-long career as an MP, Mr Hague launched a surprise, failed, bid to oust the speaker, John Bercow, who many Tories dislike. It was typical of the Tories' bungling in Parliament; but, MPs tutted, also an unseemly exit for one of its best performers of modern times.
They were wrong. Because the 54-year-old Yorkshireman was following party orders—and that, even more than his laconic drawl and brilliance at the dispatch box, epitomises his career. The episode was also typical of the sort of orders Mr Hague has often had to follow, as an absurdly young Welsh secretary under John Major, as his successor as party leader, and, between 2010 and 2014, as foreign secretary.
So what did he achieve? In an interview in his parliamentary office, Mr Hague names, without hesitation, a law he got passed in 1995 to outlaw discrimination against the disabled as his proudest legislative achievement. His spell as party leader (“I don't regret taking the leadership on, or giving it up; somebody had to do it”) is harder to enthuse about. After a stab at forging a kinder Conservatism—which remains elusive—he fell back on Euroscepticism, was humiliated in the 2001 election and resigned. That he remained an MP was an act of courage, which he burnished with dazzling speeches and unshakable loyalty to his successors. David Cameron, who took the helm in 2005, called him the Tories' deputy leader in all but name.
This made Mr Hague the most powerful foreign secretary since Tony Blair, a globe-trotting prime minister, emasculated the job. Even in a time of cuts—which Mr Hague ensured were lighter at the Foreign Office than they might have been—he had an opportunity to strengthen his office (“the best job in the world”) and Britain's place in the world. He did not really take it.
He did some excellent things—restoring confidence to a department he found to be “shockingly” demoralised, including through a renewed emphasis on learning languages and other lapsed skills. He also expanded its operations, opening 20 missions, especially in India and China, the focus of a commercial push. He was also bold, early on, supporting Mr Cameron's championing of the Arab spring, including the intervention in Libya in 2011. Mr Hague describes their failure to win parliamentary support for strikes on Syria's regime in 2013 as one of his “worst experiences”.
But after that setback Mr Cameron seemed to lose interest in the world. And Mr Hague did nothing obvious to fill the gap. He did not demur when Mr Cameron ordered a pullout from Afghanistan more abrupt than Britain's allies wanted. “We would have been there for decades” otherwise, he says; NATO only wanted Britain to stay, with a tiny force, for a year or two.
Mr Hague's absence from the early Franco-German efforts to end the Ukraine crisis seemed similarly indicative of shrunken ambition. “You can't be everywhere”, he protests. But when it comes to tackling the continent's biggest security threats, Britain should always be with its main European allies. That Mr Hague was meanwhile more prominent in campaigning against rape in war, often alongside the film star Angelina Jolie, seemed a bit odd. The cause was important, but there was little in the history of such campaigns to suggest it would succeed, and the foreign secretary was required elsewhere.
He retires to a pile in Wales and the 18th century, about which he writes fine books. It has been a thoroughly commendable political career; but, especially when set against Mr Hague's gifts, not a great one.
他在威尔士衣锦而归，还写了一些关于18世纪的好书。这是一段完全值得赞赏的政治生涯，但与黑格的天分相比，这又略显逊色。 译者：王颖 校对：张娣
1.give up 放弃；投降
They'll have to give up completely on certain of their studies.
His wife would love him to give up his job.
2.seem to 似乎
Financial markets seem to agree.
Investors seem to have noticed.