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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hug a Hoonie (he needs it)

Poor old Geoff Hoon. It seems that hardly a week goes by without him suffering another humiliation. It all began with the cabinet reshuffle in May. According to Dominic Lawson, Hoon was confident he would be moving back up the ministerial ladder. The night before the local elections - Lawson tells us - Hoon was interviewed by David Dimbleby on the imminent reshuffle:

"Will you be standing by your phone, Mr Hoon?" Instead of the studiedly modest
response that one would expect to such a question, Hoon replied: "I suspect I'll
be doing rather more than that. I suspect I'll be heading for Downing Street in
the morning." The smug smile accompanying that gratuitous remark suggested to
the other guests in the studio that Mr Hoon was in line for a promotion."
But it wasn't to be. According to the press reports at the time, Blair initially promised him a new department for Europe to ease the blow of his demotion from Leader of the House, only to go back on his word before the end of the day was out.

In his first major Commons debate in his new role he had to listen to William Hague predicting that he would become "Junior Under-Secretary for paperclips in no time".

Margaret Beckett seemed to confirm Hague's prediction by barring him from answering Commons' questions on his own portfolio, suggesting that he answer on Northern Uganda instead, or better still not bother to turn up...

Open season on Hoon now seems to be in full swing. The Sun informed us that his officials have changed his nickname from Buff(Hoon) to Odd-job. Tory MP Keith Simpson tabled a parliamentary question asking "What is the point of Geoff Hoon?". And Shadow Europe Minister Graham Brady is investigating how much it cost for Hoon to change the plaque on his door to add to "Minister for Europe" the rather desperate rider, " - Attending Cabinet".

Summing it up in the Times today Anne Treneman wrote:

I began to concentrate on the lonely figure of Geoff Hoon, sitting on the
front bench. You may remember that he had a spat with Mrs Beckett and so now he
is the Minister for Europe who isn’t allowed to talk on Europe. As I understand
it, he is now piloting our transport strategy with Kazakhstan. Yesterday he
clutched a binder that held, I presume, his children’s homework.

It's probably this seeming shortage of friends that has driven Hoon to become the Cabinet's foremost leakmeister. Perhaps David Cameron needs to come up with some kind of new strategy for socially excluded people in Westminster...

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