Richmond, , England
|| March 26, 1961
|Last Modifed||New Jerusalem|
Sep 01, 2010 11:38am
Married - Disputed -
|Info||The Right Honourable William Jefferson Hague is a British politician, the Member of Parliament for Richmond, North Yorkshire, former leader of the Conservative Party, and currently Shadow Foreign Secretary. |
Hague was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, into a middle-class family in a strongly working-class area. He made the national news at the age of sixteen by speaking at the Conservative party's 1977 national conference. In his speech he reminded the attendees that "Most of you won't be here in 30 or 40 years time" but that he would have to live with consequences of the Labour government if they stayed in power.
Subsequently, Hague went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and while there he was President of both the Conservative Association (OUCA) and the Oxford Union, a noted breeding-ground for political hopefuls and high-flyers. At Oxford, Hague studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and graduated with first-class honours. Following Oxford Hague went on to study for an MBA at INSEAD and work as a management consultant for McKinsey.
He was the unsuccessful candidate for Wentworth in 1987, he was elected to Parliament in a byelection as member for Richmond, North Yorkshire in 1989,
After holding other ministerial positions he entered the Cabinet in 1995 as Secretary of State for Wales.
Hague made a good showing at the Welsh Office, partly because his predecessor, John Redwood, had been heavily criticised in the role. Resolving not to emulate Redwood's attempt to mime to the Welsh national anthem at a public event, Hague asked a Welsh Office civil servant, Ffion Jenkins, to teach him the words. He later married her.
In 1997, Hague was elected leader of the Conservative Party in succession to John Major. Hague beat other more senior Conservatives for the role, including Michael Howard whom he had initially agreed to run with.
Hague's leadership is seen widely as a failure. In the view of some commentators Hague was ill-prepared for the role of Opposition Leader and had a poor public delivery while his attempts to appeal to the younger generation failed to win him the popular following he had been seeking. Hague has said that his image never recovered from the first few months of his leadership during which public relations exercises backfired disastrously. The prime example of this was his visit to a theme park during which he, his Chief of Staff Sebastian Coe and the local MP took a ride on a log flume wearing baseball caps emblazoned with the word 'HAGUE'. Cecil Parkinson described the exercise as "juvenile".
Hague also became known as the 'Fighting Foetus', owing to a claimed likeness to an unborn baby. In a controversial speech Tony Banks, Minister for Sport, likened Hague to a foetus and this was extended to 'Fighting Foetus' by Simon Hoggart, the political commentator, as a result of his bantam-like aggressive demeanour at a political rally.
Hague's leadership, like that of his successor, was constantly under attack, even from traditionally friendly sources. During the 1998 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, The Sun's front page read, in a parody of the famous Monty Python's "Dead Parrot" sketch, "This party is no more ... it has ceased to be ... this is an ex-party. Cause of death: suicide."
Although perception of him in the country was often said to be unfavourable, Hague gained respect from all sides of the British House of Commons during his time as Leader of the Opposition for his brilliant performances as a debater. It has been said that Hague's critics, however vocal their opposition, were silenced every Wednesday by his performance at Prime Minister's Questions.
Hague's authority was put in doubt with the promotion of Michael Portillo to the role of shadow Chancellor in 2000. Within days Portillo reversed years of Conservative opposition to two of Labour's flagship policies, the minimum wage and independence of the Bank of England. From then and until the 2001 General Election Hague's supporters, primarily Amanda Platell, fought an increasingly bitter battle with those of Portillo. Platell has said that she advised Hague to abandon the "fresh start" theme and to follow his instincts. While this was not wholly unsuccessful in improving his image, some bad mistakes were made, including the claim that he used to drink '14 pints of beer a day' when he was a teenager and his much maligned, even described as racist, "foreign-land" speech.
As Hague admitted on the morning of Labour's second landslide victory "we have not been able to persuade a majority, or anything approaching a majority, that we are yet the alternative government that they need." The Conservatives won only one more seat in the 2001 General Election than they had in the 1997 election. Following this second consecutive landslide defeat, Hague resigned as leader, thus becoming the first full Conservative Party leader not to have become Prime Minister. (Sir Austen Chamberlain, a previous leader often cited as achieving the same dubious distinction, was in fact only Leader of the Parliamentary Party and not the whole body of the Conservative Party in the country.)
Whilst on the backbenches, he occasionally spoke in the House on the issues of the day. During a debate before the Iraq War (2003) Hague's speech in support of action proposed by Tony Blair was a typical example. During the television coverage of him speaking one could lipread the Prime Minister - whom Hague, a Conservative, normally opposes - saying with a grin to his colleague and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: "He's good, you know."
Between 1997 and 2002 William Hague was the chairman of the International Democrat Union. Since 2002 he has served as a deputy chairman to John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia.
Since ceasing to be Leader of the Opposition, Hague has been an active media personality. He put in a much-praised performance as "guest host" on the satirical television programme Have I Got News For You. Other subsequent activities have included his in-depth biography of 18th century Prime Minister Pitt the Younger, published in 2004, and 25th anniversary programme for Radio 4 about the political television satire Yes, Minister in 2005. (The full list of his registered interests, from which he earns more than £1m a year - more than any other MP - can be found here). Partly as a result of these career moves his profile and his popularity among Conservative Party members and the wider public have risen significantly since his spell as party leader.
Along with former Prime Minister John Major, former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke and Hague's successor as leader Iain Duncan Smith, Hague served for a time on the Conservative Leadership Council, which was set up by Michael Howard upon his unopposed election as Conservative Party Leader in 2003. In the 2005 Conservative leadership election Hague backed eventual winner David Cameron.
On 6 December 2005, David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative party. Hague was offered, and accepted, the role of Shadow Foreign Secretary and Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet. He had been widely tipped to return to the front bench under either Cameron or his opponent in the leadership race David Davis.