The findings of the YouGov poll published in the Sun this morning are remarkable. Not because voters overwhelmingly want politicians not to take any holidays at all (“voters hate politicians” shock) but because of the striking popularity of William Hague, formerly known as one of the Tories’ least effective leaders.
Politicians were ranked in terms of whether they were doing a good job. They ranked between -5 for Theresa May to -35 for Nick Clegg. All except Hague, who scored an impressive +11. He was also the second most identifiable face, behind David Cameron, but ahead of Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and George Osborne.
Why is he so popular? Here are a few thoughts:
1) Libya. It’s a difficult case to make: support for the war has been declining steadily, and more people think it is going badly than well. But perhaps voters see Cameron as the man who took us into war, and Hague as the man now trying to win it. Alternatively, perhaps no matter how unpopular the war, the British will always back a war leader.
2) Avoiding the cuts. Hague doesn’t preside over a department which is cutting services to ordinary voters, so he is largely able to sidestep the tricky domestic questions.
3) He’s in charge. With both Cameron and Clegg on holiday, stories like this one in the Sun help paint Hague as strong and decisive. As long as he can avoid making Prescott-like utterances, these three weeks should be good for his reputation.
4) Charisma. Although Hague was widely mocked while Tory leader, his more statesmanlike demeanour now has shown the rest of the world what the party saw in him in the first place.