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Wednesday, February 3, 1999 Published at 21:43 GMT

UK Politics

Hoddle becomes political football

Glenn Hoddle departed as England coach after Blair's comments

Tory leader William Hague has stepped up the attack on the prime minister for "poking his nose" into the row leading to the sacking of the former England football coach Glenn Hoddle.

The Hoddle File
Speaking during prime minister's question Mr Hague asked to jeers: "Who should be the next manager of the England football team?"

Amid Labour cries of "Own goal", Mr Blair replied "I am content to leave that to the Football Association."

Political Editor Robin Oakley: "Mr Blair accused of meddling"
The Tory leader responded: "We all thought Glenn Hoddle's remarks were outrageous.

"But will he accept for future reference and on reflection that there is a limit to the number of things that politicians should poke their noses into."

[ image: William Hague tells Tony Blair
William Hague tells Tony Blair "there is a limit"
The prime minister said: "I really cannot believe he is raising this.

"By making the comment himself he has actually commented on the issue. I suggest he looks at what I actually said."

In his attacks on the prime minister Mr Hague was referring to remarks made Mr Blair on ITV's This Morning with Richard and Judy programme on Monday.

Tony Blair: "I suggest he looks at what I actually said."
In a live interview, the prime minister said Mr Hoddle should leave his job if the reports on his remarks about the disabled proved accurate.

[ image: Tony Blair faces a packed House for prime minister's questions]
Tony Blair faces a packed House for prime minister's questions
Mr Hoddle stepped down from his post as England coach my mutual agreement with the Football Association on Tuesday following public outrage over remarks he was said to have made about disabled people.

In the meantime, the prime minister's office had contacted Mr Hoddle again to "explain" to him further details of Mr Blair's view.

But this did little to counter the growing accusations that the head of the government had added impetus to the "witch-hunt" against the football coach.

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major accused Mr Blair of succumbing to a "mob mentality" in commenting on the matter.

Sir Bert Millichip, former chairman of the Football Association, also described remarks by Mr Blair and Sports Minister Tony Banks as "unforgivable".

Sir Bert said: "It was a most difficult decision and not made any easier by the pressure that came from outside, in particular the prime minister and the minister for sport.

"I am sure the acting chairman of the Football Association could have done without that sort of pressure."

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