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Tuesday 8th March 2011 | 15:06
William Hague doesn't look or sound like a happy man.
When asked today about Ming Campbell's hint that he was not "enthusiastic" about his job, the Foreign Secretary gave a very Hague-like answer.
Instead of saying "I love this job, I will do this job as long as the Prime Minister wants me to" etc etc, Hague came out with this long formulation:
"These are historic times as we have just been talking about and momentous events are taking place and I say to you very seriously that all of us who have taken on the job of shouldering responsibilities at this time must see those responsibilities through for an extended period of time in the face of any criticism or setbacks.
"And certainly I think that in many different governments and in many different responsibilities, that's how we feel about it. And that's certainly how I feel about it."
Now, that phrase "extended period of time"* could suggest that once he's through the Libyan crisis or the Arab Spring, he could step aside. It certainly leaves open the possibility of him stepping down sometime during this Parliament.
These are difficult times, but the way Hague talked about his "responsibilities" made him sound like a man who was enduring rather than relishing his role in King Charles Street.
And his answer will certainly give the story legs rather than end speculation about his future.
Funnily enough, as Hague dealt with tricky questions alongside a baffled Mahmoud Abbas, it was all very reminiscent of the Haguean response he gave at the height of the furore over Christopher Myers.
Back last summer, it was at a joint press conference with another visiting guest, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, that Hague had to fend off difficult questions.
Back then, he came out with a statement that raised more questions than it answered.
But it is also worth recalling just how close Hague came to quitting back then. The Standard's Joe Murphy had a great quote from a friend of the Foreign Sec:
Friends of Mr Hague told the Standard he could quit before the next general election and return to his lucrative business career. One said: “William lives and breathes politics but recently he has not looked like a man whose heart is in it for life.”
If a demoralised Hague does indeed step down at some point, the smart money is on Michael Gove to replace him. Gove needs time to prove he's been a reforming Education Secretary first. Maybe that's why he's in such a hurry right now.
*FOOTNOTE. "I'm in this for the long-term/long haul" may have been a better way of putting it. But then again, Hague may have been wary of challenging the PM's role as the ultimate judge of how should stay where and for how long.
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