William Hague reveals his five secrets to navigating PMQs - or tricky questions in any situation

 
Edith Hancock
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Time for the precise counterstrike or statistical smokescreen? (Source: Getty)

Having left the Commons, William Hague – Aka Baron Hague of Richmond – has ceased to give a damn.

Speaking at the Westminster Property Association’s annual lunch today, the man with 40 years of speech-giving on his CV revealed how to navigate tricky questions in all situations.

Hague reckons there’s only five answers you can give to any and all hostile questions in the Commons:

The precision counterstrike

This only works when you are in a position of power over your opponent. Eg. You’re asked a hostile question, but by some turn of fate one of your fellow MPs has photocopied evidence of the poor enquirer that shows them saying something completely contradictory to their line of attack.

The statistical smokescreen

“I’m sure you’ve come across this one in your industry,” Hague added, before demonstrating the art of doing a slightly different calculation with profits and costs in an annual report to your opponent, thus coming out with a more favourable answer. Mathematical gymnastics is a favourite pastime at City A.M.

The shameless question hijack

“I have already been in deep discussion over this issue this morning with my cabinet and we are having another meeting later this afternoon.” You can say that about anything. It doesn’t need to be true.

The scornful sidestep

Again, pretty effective. Contrast the question with any crisis going on in the world, (refugees in Europe, the Chinese economy, literally anything) and shame the enquirer for their impertinence and lack of sensitivity in these uncertain times.

The law of disproportionate uncertainty

As Hague sees it: “The greater the utter certainty with which you utter a completely vacuous statement, the more people will think you’ve said something tangible and certain.”