THE House of Commons Speaker was seen within Downing Street as a “publicity-mad loony” who traded in conspiracy theories about the death of Princess Diana at the start of his career, official files have revealed.
As a newly elected MP in 1997, Sir Lindsay Hoyle was accused of fuelling “ridiculous” claims that British security forces were involved in the death of Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed.
Then Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair even sent him a personal note warning him the subject was “deeply distressing for the bereaved families”.
The low opinion of Sir Lindsay, who was knighted in 2018 and became Speaker after the 2019 general election, is revealed in newly released files from the UK National Archives.
The files also reveal then Tory leader William Hague tried to delay the Scottish devolution referendum after the death of the Princess of Wales.
Downing Street argued in public that it was too impractical, but privately admitted it simply didn’t want to change the date.
Diana and Mr Fayed – son of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed – died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
In the summer of 1998, Mr Hoyle, as he then was, pressed Mr Blair over the alleged involvement of “British security agents” in Paris on the fatal night.
Mr Hoyle wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to “clear up some of the secrecy and controversies” surrounding Diana’s death after his attempts to table written questions in the Commons were blocked by the House authorities.
He wrote: “There has been an enormous amount of speculation on recent television documentaries that somehow British security forces may have been involved in the death of Diana. Making a statement on this matter would answer many of these questions and put an end to these rumours and uncertainty.”
Although only elected as the Labour MP for Chorley the previous year, Mr Hoyle had already made headlines by calling for a national children’s hospital to be built as a memorial to Diana, and for Heathrow to be renamed Diana, Princess of Wales Airport.
His calls for a public statement drew a withering response from Number 10.
“Lindsay Hoyle is publicity-mad loony,” one official working there scrawled in a handwritten note.
The Foreign Office drew up a suitably “dismissive and definitive” reply for Mr Blair to send, but also suggested it might be better “to avoid putting anything in writing” in case it fuelled the conspiracy theories.
However Mr Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, said that was “daft”, adding “much better to put this in writing clearly and dismissively”.
In his letter to Mr Hoyle, marked “personal”, Mr Blair said it would “inappropriate” for him to make any statement that might prejudge the French investigation into the crash.
“However, as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have been saying for months, any suggestion that any British official organisation or department had anything to do with this tragic event is both ridiculous and deeply distressing for the bereaved families,” he added.
The files also reveal Mr Hague trying to delay the Scottish devolution vote due to take place on September 11, 1997, five days after Diana’s funeral.
Political campaigning was suspended for a week, but Mr Hague said keeping the original voting day “cannot, in any respects, be regarded as satisfactory”.
In a letter to Mr Blair, he said: “I strongly feel that Parliament should be recalled next week so as to arrange to amend the Referendum Act so as to effect a delay. With cross party agreement this would be a quick and straightforward procedure.”
Mr Blair rejected the idea, citing “serious practical difficulties”, as well as the risk of politicising the occasion with a recall of parliament.
“In any case the campaign has already been underway for a month and a half – longer the than a general election campaign – and the issue of devolution has been under debate for many years in both Scotland and Wales. I do not believe that five days of suspended campaign really justifies the major upheaval that you suggest.”
In a private note to the PM, Mr Powell said the practical arguments were weak, adding. “The real argument is that we simply do not want to change the date of the referendum.
“Given that Hague is likely to use this letter… to show how unreasonable we are, I have nonetheless concentrated on the practical arguments.”