Hague hopes bad week won’t ‘faze’ coalition

Foreign secretary William Hague has offered a philosophical perspective on the week's events from Istanbul, as fears of a fuel strike fade.

The former Conservative leader, in Turkey for an international meeting on Syria, refused to be downcast after what many commentators are calling the Conservatives' worst week in power.

"It's been a controversial week, is the way I would put it," Mr Hague told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"Those things happen in the lives of governments. I don't think we should be fazed or deterred by that. Yes, some things have been happening which the government has had to face up to."

After the cash-for-access scandal and 'pastygate' came confusing government advice in response to the threat of a fuel strike. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude apologised after suggesting that motorists stockpile fuel in jerry cans.

"Had they not set out the precautions that people should take, then if the strike took place in the coming weeks it would be said they had been complacent," Mr Hague added.

"The country is in a better state of preparedness now than it was a week ago in the eventuality of a tanker strike."

Fears of panic-buying faded yesterday after unions announced there would not be a strike over the Easter weekend. The government said it was no longer urgent to top up petrol tanks yesterday.

But in an interview with the Sunday Express newspaper the Unite union's Fuel Lobby allies, who were behind the 2000 fuel disruptions, claimed they were ready to 'bring Britain to a halt'.

"The mood among our supporters is to stand by the tanker drivers and bring the country to a standstill," Fuel Lobby ringleader Andrew Spence told the newspaper.

"There will be a domino effect. This time we will bring the government down."

He claimed over 4,000 drivers had pledged their support to the Unite strike, which is more specifically focused on terms and safety issues. Its negotiators will enter into talks tomorrow presided over by conciliation service Acas.