CAN it really be true that David Cameron has appointed William Hague as his “deputy in all but name”? At first sight It seems unlikely given Mr Cameron's stout defence of George Osborne who has always been assumed to be his number two. Yet the phrase “deputy in all but name” appeared between quotation marks in three usually reliable newspapers yesterday. Shall we see it on our TV screens when Mr Hague appears: “William Hague, Deputy Leader In All But Name?” In the House of Commons, Gordon Brown and Harriet Harman could have great fun referring to the “Right Honourable Deputy Leader In All But Name”. Regardless of titles, the Conservative Party is in urgent need of a big- hitter in time for the English council elections in June. Other than Mr Cameron himself and Mr Hague, there is no member of the shadow cabinet who can inflict real damage on government ministers. David Davis was able to do so and perhaps he will be welcomed back to the party from which he so quixotically resigned for that reason.

But the biggest hitter of all would be Kenneth Clarke and rumours persist that he will return, perhaps as business spokesman. Yet it is difficult to see how Mr Clarke could perform at his peak as a strong pro-European when the rest of his party will be saying “nay” to Britain's membership of the EU at the European Parliament elections which take place on the same day as the local elections in June.


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