Cablegate: William Hague Says “Near Death Experience” Has
RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHLO #0930/01 0921006
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 011006Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8091
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0655
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 000930
EO 12958 DECL: 03/31/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PINR, AF, UK
SUBJECT: WILLIAM HAGUE SAYS “NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCE” HAS
IMPROVED TORY CHANCES
Classified By: DCM Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C/NF) Summary. Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague told the DCM the Tories are “more likely to win than lose” the next general election. High approval ratings in the polls allow the Conservative Leader David Cameron a “latitude to maneuver” that he does not possess when the polls are running against him. Referring to Afghanistan, Hague said the party “would be hard pressed to part with HMG policy where British troops are concerned.” Hague asserted that he, Cameron, and Shadow Chancellor George Osborne are all “children of Thatcher” and staunch Atlanticists but acknowledged that the network of ties once binding the British public to America may not be as thick for all citizens of Britain. End summary.
Saved by “Near Death” Experience
2. (C/NF) William Hague and DCM, accompanied by Hague’s Senior Advisor Arminka Helic and Poloff Kirsten Schulz, met in Hague’s House of Commons office March 19. Hague was upbeat about the Conservatives’ prospects, arguing that the “near death experience” of actively contemplating a snap general election last August when Cameron was down in the polls had forced party members and leaders to unite. Prime Minister Gordon Brown having “bottled it (lost his nerve),” after a strong Conservative Conference and a well-regarded performance by David Cameron, had left the Tories with an “internal confidence” previously lacking, said Hague.
3. (C/NF) When the Conservatives are leading in the polls as they are now, Cameron has more latitude to attack the Government, said Hague, and their proposals are taken as genuine possibilities for the future, rather than carping against the majority. He said the Conservatives are “more likely to win than lose” the next general election which he suspects will be called in fall 2009 or spring 2010. From the Conservatives’ point of view, added Hague, later was better. The longer Brown stayed in office, the more the public would tend to the view that it was time for a change and a 2010 election date would mean the Labour government will have been in power for thirteen years. Hague said the state of the economy would play a role and he suspected Brown’s strategy would be to cast an economic downturn as international in nature and not the product of any of his actions. Hague said the polls showed the British public is “less hostile” to the Conservative Party and, while he is optimistic about Cameron’s chances, said it is also likely the Conservatives will come to power as a minority government.
4. (C/NF) The DCM asked Hague how the Conservatives viewed Afghanistan, recognizing that Cameron believes policy toward that country will be at the top of his agenda. Hague said there was no great difference between the Conservatives and HMG when it came to foreign policy. There were skirmishes about the EU but otherwise there was agreement. The Conservatives, said Hague, “would be hard pressed to part with HMG policy where British troops are concerned.” Thus any criticism of current Afghanistan policy would be muted. Hague said there was concern about marrying NATO and political goals. He mused that some expert on the country suggested that, at some future date, administrative control of Kabul and the North would be separated from the less plausible goal of administering the South, but he was not advocating such a shift at this, or any near, date.
5. (C/NF) The DCM asked Hague what he thought of Brown’s national security strategy, which had been released the day before. Hague said it was “more a worthy list of goals than a strategy.” Without having studied it in detail, there was little in it with which the Tories would disagree, said Hague. He thought Brown had not gone far enough. The Conservatives themselves are in the process of conceiving a national security strategy. They will call for an American-style National Security Council, not just the creation of a panel of senior advisors to inform the Prime Minister. Hague added that other domestic security initiatives launched by Brown, like the creation of a Border Service, were also thin. He said the Conservatives wanted to stop spending money on the creation of a national identity card, for example, and use that money to build a “real border and customs police where we actually track who leaves the
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Is the Relationship Still Special?
6. (C/NF) The DCM asked Hague whether the relationship between the UK and the U.S. was “still special.” Hague said he, David Cameron and George Osborne were “children of Thatcher” and staunch Atlanticists. Speaking more broadly, Hague acknowledged that this was a hard question to answer. Politicians, in his view, “sit at the top of the pyramid” of the general public and it is unclear whether the British people will maintain the network of ties to America that has sustained the special relationship. For his part, said Hague, he has a sister who is American, spends his own vacations in America, and, like many similar to him, considers America the “other country to turn to.” Asking his Senior Advisor her views, Helic (who is Bosnian), said, “America is the essential country.” Hague said whoever enters 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister soon learns of the essential nature of the relationship with America. He added, “we want a pro-American regime. We need it. The world needs it.”
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