Monday 18 December 2017

From 16-year-old prodigy to elder statesman before 50

Joe Churcher in London

William Hague came back from leading the Conservatives to crushing defeat in the 2001 election to become one of the most effective members of David Cameron's team.

Not many politicians find themselves cast as elder statesmen before their 50th birthday but William Hague's political career has always been striking in its precocity.

He was catapulted to national attention as a 16-year-old when he unleashed his now familiar Yorkshire oratory on the 1977 party conference -- to the delight of Margaret Thatcher and the media.

Educated at Wath-on-Dearne comprehensive and Magdalen College, Oxford, he cut his election teeth with defeat at the 1987 general election in Wentworth, near Rotherham -- where he was born on March 26, 1961, -- but within two years was in parliament, winning a by-election in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

He entered the cabinet as Welsh secretary in 1995 -- a posting where he met civil servant Ffion Jenkins, whom he married in 1997.


By the time of his wedding he had taken on the leadership of the party and was fighting Tony Blair. Verbal victories over Mr Blair in the Commons were not enough as a succession of PR gaffes, splits over Europe and leadership speculation fatally undermined his four-year tenure.

A widely-criticised 2001 campaign ended with the Tories gaining just one seat and Mr Hague standing down, setting an unwanted precedent as the first Conservative leader not to become prime minister.

He was eventually persuaded to return as shadow foreign secretary and "senior member of the shadow cabinet" in 2005, a role Mr Cameron confirmed made him deputy leader "in all but name".

He emerged relatively unscathed from the Westminster expenses' scandal, forced only to repay £600 (€724) in mortgage interest claims.

And when the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition assumed office, Mr Hague was confirmed in the plum heavyweight job of Britain's foreign secretary.

But less than four months later he issued an extraordinary personal statement to counter internet rumours about his relationship with his special adviser Christopher Myers, who quit his post.

Mr Hague denied having had an "improper" relationship with Mr Myers, although he said they had "occasionally shared twin hotel rooms", and insisted his marriage was secure.

He declared in his statement, issued on yesterday: "This is the straightforward truth."

Irish Independent

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