I'm scratching my head and trying to understand the scandal surrounding the Foreign Secretary William Hague at the moment. His sharing a room with his driver Chrostopher Myers, who has since the 2010 election campaign become Hague's (or is is 'a'?) special advisor, have led to insinuations of homosexuality against Hague, mingled with doubts about why he hired Myers in the first place. Hague has now issued an alarmingly intimate statement, explaining how hurtful all these rumours are, especially since he and his wife have suffered many miscarriages, the most recent of which happpened this summer. The story was broken by political blogger Guido Fawkes and the press have since got the scent in their noses, publishing pictures of Hague laughing and chatting with Myers and dressed in shades, baseball cap, low-slung trousers and white top. The press-shaped connotations of Hague's attire are unmistakeable in the context.
Several stories are emerging to explain this storm in a teacup. There is the story of a purient press, never happier than when it can catch the whiff of sexual misdemeanour among the political classes. There is the story of an unwise Hague who shared his room with his driver, even though there have long been rumours about his sexuality. There is the story of a sappling like Myers, suddenly exposed to the freak winds of bad publicity and feeling that his happiness and that of his family are more important than staying in a job that had become too hot.
And then there is the story of the blogger Guido Fawkes who apparently started it all. Fawkes claims to have sources who were firsthand witnesses of Hague's behaviour. He provides apparently salient details, like the fact that other campaign staffers stayed in more modest hotels and that Myers was not qualified for the advisor position he was subsequently appointed to.
Of course it is very difficult to know what the truth is in all this. If Hague, as a senior politician, is sleeping with male staff members, he surely won't be the first to do so. If he is appointing lovers to political positions they are not qualified for, then of course there is a question over his probity, not to mention his political judgment in what is one of the most sensitive of cabinet roles. The impression is already abroad that Hague has already protested too much about the press insinuations.
But who said he was guilty? For all we know, Hague may simply have found after spending days in the car together that Myers, his then driver, had a more interesting and well-informed understanding of foreign policy than any number of wannabe Conservative apparatchiks. He might, furthermore, have taken a twin room as a way of saving money on the campaign, rather than spend yet more money on a room for Myers. Maybe they played poker and drank whisky until late one night, and Myers crashed out in his room. And maybe, just maybe, Guido Fawkes's sources are not decent, upstanding Conservative servants but green-eyed monsters, furious with their ungrateful master for promoting a bloody upstart. Spreading muck, after all, is the oldest political trick in the book.
Only God, and Hague and Myers, know the truth for sure. The rest of us must reflect on how easy it is to tell a different story by the alteration of a detail, the weight given to this or that fact, and the trust we put in stories told by witnesses whose motives might not be as pure as we imagine them to be.
or, as I'm sure the Romans used to say, caveat bloggor.