William Hague recalls his best PMQs joke taking down Tony Blair

Written by David Singleton on 17 August 2017 in Diary

'I liked to put some life and energy and humour into parliamentary proceedings.'

During his time as Conservative party leader, William Hague won widespread plaudits for his sparkling parliamentary oratory.

In particular, he became known for jokes which frequently got under Tony Blair’s skin – but had MPs, and even the Speaker Betty Boothroyd, rolling in the aisles.

But looking back, which of his many wisecracks does he believe was most the devastating?

In a wide-ranging interview on Radio 4, Hague plumped for the gag he made in 1999 when former health secretary Frank Dobson was set to be the official Labour candidate for London mayor and the popular Ken Livingstone was expected to cause chaos by running as an independent.

The then Tory leader asked Blair: "Why doesn't he split the job of mayor of London? The former health secretary can run as his day mayor and the honourable member for Brent East can run as his nightmare!"

Speaking on Radio 4’s Reflections with Peter Hennessey, Hague said: "I think I made him laugh the most when I said if he was having such difficulties with the job of Mayor of London he could split the job and Frank Dobson could be his day mayor and Ken Livingston could be his nightmare. Blair himself really had to laugh a lot at that one."

He added: "I liked to put some life and energy and humour into parliamentary proceedings. But it was partly that I had nothing else going for me at the time. There was the Conservative Party that had had a total drubbing, lost half its seats, we were way behind in polls. Well, at least on a Wednesday afternoon I had to show there was some fight in us, that I could raise the morale of my side.

"I had very few other ways of doing so. So I think it was part of my natural tendency to be like that in parliament, but partly it’s the guerrilla psychology. You know, if you can’t win overall you start looking for ways you can win little victories."

Friend of Hague have previously suggested that his favourite gag was one he aimed at John Prescott, who became a regular target after taking a 300 yard car journey during Labour's Bournemouth conference. Turning to the then deputy prime minister during the 1999 Queens’s Speech debate, he said that Prescott's "idea of a park and ride scheme is to park one Jaguar so that he can ride away in the other".

A few years later, in 2008, Hague brought the House down when he mocked Blair over his alleged interest in the European presidency - and pondered how Gordon Brown would react to a President Blair.






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