Hague quits as ministers are axed in Cameron 'cull' to bring in more young women
WILLIAM Hague has stood down as Britain's foreign secretary as David Cameron mounted a "cull of the middle-aged white men" in his biggest reshuffle since becoming prime minister.
Mr Cameron fired the starting gun for the general election by sacking at least six cabinet members to make way for a series of young women, who will be promoted today.
Mr Hague said he was quitting as foreign secretary with immediate effect, saying there was a "need for renewal" in the UK's Government.
He will become Leader of the House of Commons, replacing Andrew Lansley.
Mr Hague will not be replaced by George Osborne, the chancellor, it is understood.
Candidates to replace him are thought to include Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, Sajid Javid, the culture secretary, Michael Gove, the education secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.
High-profile sackings yesterday included Kenneth Clarke, the former minister without portfolio, Dominic Grieve as attorney-general and David Willetts, the universities minister. Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, was also sacked by Mr Cameron.
The prime minister will today promote as many as 12 women to his cabinet and the lower ministerial ranks. The average age of those who were sacked was around 60.
Mr Cameron has in recent years been damaged by claims he has a "women problem" and that he has surrounded himself with "privileged men".
He wants to create a younger cabinet that will appeal to female voters ahead of the general election.
Esther McVey and Liz Truss are expected to be promoted to the cabinet.
Mr Hague, the former Conservative Party leader, will return to the Conservative backbenches before stepping down as an MP at the election.
"By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the cabinet," he said.
"In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the prime minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election."
Mr Cameron said: "William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets.
"Not only has he been a first-class foreign secretary, he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend."
The British prime minister has in the past been reluctant to make major changes to his senior team since the formation of the coalition.
However, in a sign of his desire to create a team that will win the Conservatives a majority in May's general election, he yesterday embarked on a series of significant changes.
There was also a massive shake-up in the middle ranks of government, with ministers including Alan Duncan in the international development department and Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, departing.
Mr Clarke resigned shortly after being informed that he was now surplus to requirements. Mr Clarke is a popular figure in the party but had angered senior Conservatives by making a series of pro-European Union comments. (© Daily Telegraph, London)