By Michael Deacon
Daily Telegraph – 26 November 2013
William Hague is a capable and authoritative Foreign Secretary, but whenever I listen to him speak, I feel like a sailor desperately trying to tune a radio during a storm. I'll catch a few words, even a whole sentence, of perfect clarity, and then suddenly there'll be a great long "ummmmmmmmmmmmm", or "errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr", or some other drawn-out, rumbling monosyllable, and I'm lost. In the press gallery of the Commons there are little radio-style knobs for the use of any journalist listening to the exchanges through headphones. While Mr Hague is speaking, I find myself instinctively reaching for one – as if, by adjusting the knob just so, I could tune his voice to the correct frequency and suffer no more crackle and static.
Yesterday, he made a statement to the Commons about the deal struck at the weekend between various world powers and Iran (the Iranians will curb some of their nuclear activities in exchange for more than £4billion in sanctions relief). Mr Hague hailed the deal as
"a significant step towards enhancing the security of the Middle East".
I caught that bit just fine. But then the wind must have risen outside, as reception started to break up.
"The 10-day gap ermmmm between the negotiations we held two weeks ago and those we held this weekend did bring forth a great deal of errrrrrrrrrrrm criticism errrrrrrm, both within Iran and the US Congress and elsewhere that could easily have errrrrrrrrrrm fatally complicated errrrrrrrrrr the efforts to reach this agreement. And so ummmm when one considers now the errrrrrrrrm months of work that need to go in tooooooooo errrrrm …"
... I was struggling. Radio Hague kept fading in and out. It must have been blowing a gale out there. But the reception only got worse ... Fortunately, I was able to hear Julian Lewis (Con, New Forest East) argue that, if Mr Hague had got his way three months ago and Britain had joined a US attack on Syria, this deal with Iran could never have been reached.
Mr Hague said he disagreed, but I'm afraid that if he offered any reasons for this, I didn't catch them. It must have been the bad reception.