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The Right Honourable
 William Hague 

Assumed office 
6 December 2005
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Liam Fox

In office
19 June 1997 – 18 September 2001
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith

In office
5 July 1995 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by David Hunt
Succeeded by Ron Davies

Member of Parliament
for Richmond (Yorks)
Assumed office 
23 February 1989
Preceded by Leon Brittan
Majority 17,807 (39.4%)

Born 26 March 1961 (1961-03-26) (age 48)
Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England
Nationality English
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Ffion Jenkins
Alma mater Magdalen College, Oxford
Profession Management consultant
Religion Church of England

William Jefferson Hague (born 26 March 1961) is an English politician. He is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Richmond (Yorks), Shadow Foreign Secretary and Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet (unofficial deputy to party leader David Cameron). He previously served as leader of the Conservative Party between 1997 and 2001.

First elected to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1989, Hague rose through the ranks of John Major's government and entered the Cabinet in 1995 as the Secretary of State for Wales. Following the Conservatives' defeat in the 1997 general election, he was elected as leader of the Conservative Party. He resigned as party leader after the 2001 general election following a landslide defeat to the Labour Party. He was the first leader of the Conservatives not to have become Prime Minister since Austen Chamberlain in the early 1920s.

On the backbenches, Hague began a career as an author, writing biographies of William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce. He also held several directorships, and worked as a consultant and public speaker; the combined annual income of these activities was estimated to be around £1 million, one of the highest in Parliament.

After David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, Hague returned to front line politics as Shadow Foreign Secretary.


Early life

Hague was born in Rotherham in Yorkshire, and was educated at Ripon Grammar School and Wath-upon-Dearne Comprehensive in Rotherham. His father was a manufacturer of soft drinks.

He first made the national news at the age of 16 by speaking at the Conservative Party's 1977 national conference. In his speech he told the attendees, "Half of you won't be here in 30 or 40 years' time", but that others would have to live with consequences of a Labour government if it stayed in power.[1]

Subsequently, Hague studied PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with First-Class Honours. He was President of both the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA) and the Oxford Union, a noted route to political office. Following university, Hague went on to study for a Master of Business Administration degree at the business school INSEAD. Hague then worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, where Archie Norman was his mentor.[2]

Member of Parliament

He was first an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate for Wentworth in 1987, but was then elected to Parliament in a by-election in 1989 as member for Richmond, North Yorkshire, succeeding former Home Secretary Leon Brittan. Following his election he was the youngest Conservative MP.


In government

Despite only having recently entered Parliament, Hague became part of the government in 1990, serving as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont.[3] After Lamont was sacked in 1993, Hague moved to the Department of Social Security where he was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. The following year he was promoted to Minister of State at the DSS with responsibility for Social Security and Disabled People.[3] His fast rise up through the government is attributed to his intelligence and skills in debate.[4]

He entered the Cabinet in 1995 as Secretary of State for Wales.[3] Hague made a good impression at the Welsh Office; his predecessor John Redwood had been heavily criticised in the role. Resolving not to repeat Redwood's attempt to mime the Welsh national anthem at a public event, Hague asked a Welsh Office civil servant, Ffion Jenkins, to teach him the words; they later married.[5] He continued serving in the Cabinet until the Conservatives were removed from power in the 1997 general election.

Leadership of the Conservative Party

Following the 1997 general election defeat, Hague was elected as the leader the Conservative Party in succession to John Major, defeating more experienced figures such as Kenneth Clarke and Michael Howard. At the age of 36, Hague was tasked with rebuilding the Conservative Party by attempting to build a more modern image. £250,000 was spent on the 'Listening to Britain' campaign to try and put the Conservatives back in the touch with the public after losing power; he was also influenced by the "compassionate conservatism" ideology of the then-Governor of Texas George W. Bush.[6]

Hague's leadership came under constant attack and his tenure was widely considered a failure. Some commentators viewed him as ill-prepared, or 'unelectable', as Opposition Leader. Hague himself feels his image never did recover after the first few months, when various public-relations exercises backfired disastrously. On one of these occasions he visited a theme park and 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".

During the 1998 Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, the tabloid Sun's front page infamously read (referencing 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."

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 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, led by 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. This led to a number of further mistakes, such as the claim that he used to drink "14 pints of beer a day" when he was a teenager.[7]

Hague's reputation suffered further damage towards the end of his leadership, with a 2001 poll for the Daily Telegraph finding that 66% of voters considered him to be "a bit of a wally" and 70% of voters believed he would "say almost anything to win votes".[8]

"Foreign Land" speech

After a controversial party conference speech in March 2001, Hague was accused of xenophobia and racism by sections of the media. In the speech, Hague said: "Talk about asylum and they call you racist; talk about your nation and they call you Little Englanders [...] This government thinks Britain would be alright if we had a different people [...] Elect a Conservative government and we will give you back your country!".[9]

The speech was criticised in even traditionally Conservative newspapers such as The Sun and The Times. Former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, a prominent One Nation Conservative, was particularly critical of Hague's allegation that Britain was becoming a "foreign land", and confessed in newspaper interviews that he was uncertain as to whether he could support a Hague-led Conservative Party.[10] With hindsight, the speech served to cement the Conservatives' reputation as "the nasty party" in the run-up to the general election.

Skill in debate

Although polls remained unfavourable, Hague gained respect from both sides of the House of Commons during his time as Leader of the Opposition for his performance as a debater. Hague's critics, however vocal their opposition, were checked each Wednesday by his performance at Prime Minister's Questions and he sometimes bested Tony Blair during these sessions.[11][12] During one particular exchange, while responding to the Queen's Speech of 2000, Hague attacked the Prime Minister's record:

"In more than 20 years in politics, he has betrayed every cause he believed in, contradicted every statement he has made, broken every promise he has given and breached every agreement that he has entered into... There is a lifetime of U-turns, errors and sell-outs. All those hon. Members who sit behind the Prime Minister and wonder whether they stand for anything any longer, or whether they defend any point of principle, know who has led them to that sorry state. "[13]

Blair responded by criticising what he saw as Hague's "bandwagon" politics:

... he started the fuel protest bandwagon, then the floods bandwagon; on defence it became armour-plated, then on air traffic control it became airborne.... Yes, the right honourable Gentleman made a very witty, funny speech, but it summed up his leadership: good jokes, lousy judgment. I am afraid that in the end, if the right honourable Gentleman really aspires to stand at this Despatch Box, he will have to get his policies sorted out and his party sorted out, and offer a vision for the country's future, not a vision that would take us backwards.[14][15]

Hague continues to serve as the leader of the Conservative Party in debates in David Cameron's absence.


On the morning of Labour's second consecutive landslide victory in the 2001 general election, Hague stated:"we have not been able to persuade a majority, or anything approaching a majority, that we are yet the alternative government that they need."[16] In the 2001 election the Conservative Party had gained only one seat from their disastrous 1997 election. Following the defeat, Hague resigned as leader, thus becoming the first full Conservative Party leader not to have become Prime Minister.


On the backbenches he occasionally spoke in the Commons on the issues of the day. While Hague[17] spoke in support of the military action proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair during debate before the 2003 Iraq War, one could lipread Blair saying to his colleague, then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw "He's good, you know."[18]

Between 1997 and 2002 William Hague was the chairman of the International Democrat Union.

Hague's profile and personal, though not political, popularity have risen among both Conservative Party members and the wider public significantly since his spell as party leader. Since ceasing to be Leader of the Opposition, Hague has been an active media personality. He put in three much-praised appearances as a guest host on the BBC satirical news show Have I Got News For You in which he was also persuaded by Ian Hislop to admit that endorsing the soon-to-be-jailed Jeffrey Archer as the Conservative candidate for the post of Mayor of London was his "biggest mistake".

Other subsequent activities have included writing an in-depth biography of 18th century Prime Minister Pitt the Younger (published in 2004), teaching himself how to play the piano, and hosting the 25th anniversary programme for Radio 4 on the political television satire Yes Minister in 2005. In June 2007 he also published his second book, a biography of the anti-slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce, shortlisted for the 2008 Orwell Prize for political writing.[19] He has also enjoyed a career as one of the UK's most popular after-dinner speakers.

Hague's annual income is the highest in Parliament, with earnings of about £400,000 a year from directorships, consultancy, speeches, and his parliamentary salary. His income was previously estimated at £1 million annually, but he dropped several commitments and in effect took a salary cut of some £600,000 on becoming Shadow Foreign Secretary in 2005.[20][21]

Along with former Prime Minister John Major, former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, and Hague's successor Iain Duncan Smith, Hague served for a time on the Conservative Leadership Council, which was itself 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.

Hague is the chairman of the Team 2 Thousand donor club, a society for donors to the Conservative party.

Return to the Shadow Cabinet

Following the 2005 General Election, the then-Conservative Party leader Michael Howard offered Hague the post of Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he turned the post down. Hague apparently told Howard that his business commitments would make it difficult for him to take on such a high profile job.[22]

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, effectively serving as Cameron's deputy (though not formally, unlike previous deputy Conservative leaders Willie Whitelaw, Peter Lilley and Michael Ancram). He had been widely tipped to return to the front bench under either Cameron or leadership contest runner-up David Davis.

On 30 January 2006, per David Cameron's instructions, Hague travelled to Brussels for talks to pull Conservative Party MEPs out of the federalist European People's Party–European Democrats (EPP-ED) group in the European Parliament. (Daily Telegraph, 30 Jan 2006). Further, on 15 February 2006, Hague stood in during David Cameron's paternity leave at Prime Minister's Questions. This appearance gave rise to jokes at the expense of Blair, that all three parties that day were being led by 'stand ins', with the Liberal Democrats represented by acting leader Sir Menzies Campbell, the Labour Party by the departing Blair, and the Conservatives by Hague. Hague again deputised for Cameron for several sessions in 2006. His standing in for Cameron at PMQs has increased the resemblance of his role to that of a deputy leader, but he retains only the title Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet.It is expected that if the Conservative party win the next general election William Hague will be appointed either Deputy Prime Minister or First Secretary of State (or both) because of the current role he leads in the Shadow Cabinet. Despite still being relatively young for an MP, Hague has been described as the Conservative Party's "elder statesman".[23]

Personal life

He is currently a Vice President of the Friends of the British Library, which provides funding support to the British Library in order to make new acquisitions.[24]

Hague's wealth is estimated at £2.2m.[25]



  • Mr William Hague (1961–1989)
  • Mr William Hague MP (1989–1995)
  • The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP (1995–)

See also


  1. ^ "Your favourite Conference Clips". The Daily Politics (British Broadcasting Corporation). 3 October 2007. Retrieved 28 September 2008.  
  2. ^ "Archie Norman". The Guardian. 20 March 2001. Retrieved 6 April 2008.  
  3. ^ a b c "Rt Hon William Hague MP - profile". Retrieved 1 July 2008.  
  4. ^ "William Hague". BBC News. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 1 July 2008.  
  5. ^ "'Spin doctor' grooms Ffion's election look". BBC News. 2 May 2001. Retrieved 1 July 2008.  
  6. ^ "The all new William Hague". BBC News. 13 April 1999. Retrieved 1 July 2008.  
  7. ^ "Hague: I drank 14 pints a day". BBC News.  
  8. ^ "Poll monitor: Labour looks hard to beat". BBC News. 9 February 2001.  
  9. ^ "Hague's 'foreign land' speech". 4 March 2001. Retrieved 13 July 2008.  
  10. ^ "Hague plays 'patriot' card". BBC News.  
  11. ^ "Back in the Tory fold, while they’re a winning team". London: Times Online.  
  12. ^ "Wit, oratory - and evasion. A master debater at work". Guardian.  
  13. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 6 Dec 2000 (pt 6)". Hansard. Retrieved 13 July 2008.  
  14. ^ "".  
  15. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 6 Dec 2000 (pt 8)". Hansard.  
  16. ^ "This week's panel". BBC. Retrieved 13 July 2008.  
  17. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 18 Mar 2003 (pt 14)". Hansard.  
  18. ^ "Tory boy". Retrieved 13 July 2008.  
  19. ^ "Shortlist 2008", The Orwell Prize
  20. ^ "Hague pays dearly for his promotion to the Shadow Cabinet". London: The Times (London). 10 November 2006.,,17129-2446698,00.html. Retrieved 8 December 2006.  
  21. ^ Full list of his registered interests.
  22. ^ "Hague rejects post of shadow chancellor". The Guardian. 12 May 2005. Retrieved 4 May 2008.  
  23. ^ "Cameron plans his own night of long knives in Shadow Cabinet clear-out". Daily Mail. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2008.  
  24. ^ "Friends of the British Library Annual Report 2006/07". Retrieved 7 September 2009.  
  25. ^ Samira Shackle, Stephanie Hegarty and George Eaton The new ruling class New Statesman 1 October 2009

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Leon Brittan
Member of Parliament for Richmond, Yorks
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Major
Leader of the British Conservative Party
1997 – 2001
Succeeded by
Iain Duncan Smith
Political offices
Preceded by
David Hunt
Secretary of State for Wales
1995 – 1997
Succeeded by
Ron Davies
Preceded by
John Major
Leader of the Opposition
1997 – 2001
Succeeded by
Iain Duncan Smith
Preceded by
Liam Fox
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Preceded by
Senior Member of the Shadow Cabinet


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Right Honourable William Jefferson Hague (born March 26, 1961) is a British politician, the Member of Parliament for Richmond, North Yorkshire, former leader of the Conservative Party, and currently Shadow Foreign Secretary. His skills at a debater and public speaker have been widely appluaded, especially his performances at Prime Minister's Questions which has been noted as some of the finest in parlimentary history.


  • I was the driver's mate, delivering the bottles and beer around South Yorkshire. We used to have a pint at every stop – well the driver's mate did, not the driver, thankfully – and we used to have about 10 stops in a day. You worked so hard you didn't feel you'd drunk 10 pints by four o'clock, you used to sweat so much. But then you had to lift all the empties off the lorry. It's probably horrifying but we used to do that then go home for tea and then go out in the evening to the pub.
    • Interview, GQ magazine, August 2000
    • Reminiscing about his days delivering soft drinks for the family firm while a teenager. The interviewer asked whether that might make 14 pints a day and Hague agreed.
  • In the Prime Minister, we have a man who has forfeited the right to be believed or to be trusted. In more than 20 years in politics, he has betrayed every cause he believed in, contradicted every statement he has made, broken every promise he has given and breached every agreement that he has entered into. In 1982, the Prime Minister said that we would negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC. In 1994, he said: "Under my leadership, I will never allow this country to be isolated." In 1996, he said that he had made it clear that if it is in Britain's interest to be isolated then we will be isolated.There is a lifetime of U-turns, errors and sell-outs. All those hon. Members who sit behind the Prime Minister and wonder whether they stand for anything any longer, or whether they defend any point of principle, know who has led them to that sorry state. In one of his frequent meetings with the former leader of the Liberal party, whom he so much preferred to meeting his own Cabinet, the Prime Minister told us as it is. He said that he had taken from his party everything they thought they believed in and had stripped them of their core beliefs and that what kept them together was power.
    • 6 December 2000, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions
  • I thank the Prime Minister for his remarks about me. Debating with him at the Dispatch Box has been exciting, fascinating, fun, an enormous challenge and, from my point of view, wholly unproductive in every sense. I am told that in my time at the Dispatch Box I have asked the Prime Minister 1,118 direct questions, but no one has counted the direct answers—it may not take long.
    • 18 July 2001, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions
  • For the first time in history at Question Time, all three parties are represented by a stand-in for the real leader.
    • 15 Febuary 2005, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions when he deputised for David Cameron in his absence. However, Tony Blair was answering questions and was the active leader of the Labour party. Hague was suggesting that Gordon Brown was the "true" power behind the party.
  • "Nothing is more absurd than a Prime Minister who has committed us in principle to joining the Euro saying last week that he was against it. He talks about his five tests; we know what they are: "Does Peter want it? Will Gordon let me? Will the French like it? Will Robin notice? Can I get away with it?"
    • 25 October 2000, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions
  • To see how the post of a permanent President of the European Council could evolve is not difficult even for the humblest student of politics, and it is, of course, rumoured that one Tony Blair may be interested in the job. If that prospect makes us uncomfortable on the Conservative Benches, just imagine how it will be viewed in Downing street! I must warn Ministers that having tangled with Tony Blair across the Dispatch Box on hundreds of occasions, I know his mind almost as well as they do. I can tell them that when he goes off to a major political conference of a centre-right party and refers to himself as a socialist, he is on manoeuvres, and is busily building coalitions as only he can. We can all picture the scene at a European Council sometime next year. Picture the face of our poor Prime Minister as the name "Blair" is nominated by one President and Prime Minister after another: the look of utter gloom on his face at the nauseating, glutinous praise oozing from every Head of Government, the rapid revelation of a majority view, agreed behind closed doors when he, as usual, was excluded. Never would he more regret no longer being in possession of a veto: the famous dropped jaw almost hitting the table, as he realises there is no option but to join in. Then the awful moment when the motorcade of the President of Europe sweeps into Downing street. The gritted teeth and bitten nails: the Prime Minister emerges from his door with a smile of intolerable anguish; the choking sensation as the words, "Mr President", are forced from his mouth. And then, once in the Cabinet room, the melodrama of, "When will you hand over to me?" all over again.
    • Hansard, 21 Jan 2008, House of Commons: Column 1261-1263.
  • To Harriet Harman. "Before turning to domestic issues, I was going to be nice to the right hon. and learned Lady. She has had a difficult week. She had to explain yesterday that she dresses in accordance with wherever she is going: she wears a helmet on a building site, she wears Indian clothes in the parts of her constituency with a large representation of Indian people, so when she goes to a Cabinet meeting, she presumably dresses as a clown. As I said, I was going to be nice to her before her previous response."
    • 02 April 2008, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions

Quotations about William Hague

  • To make matters worse, they have elected a foetus as the party leader. I bet a lot of them wish they had not voted against abortion now!
  • "if I were looking for advice on what to wear or what not to wear, the very last person I would look to is the man in the baseball cap." **Harriet Harman, 02 April 2008, House of Commons, Prime Minister's Questions

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

William Jefferson Hague (pronounced HAIG; born March 26, 1961) is a British politician and is the current Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State. He was the leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001. He is the Member of Parliament for the Richmond (York) constituency in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.

William Hague was born in Rotherham in South Yorkshire, England. He first gained national attention when he spoke at the 1977 Conservative Party conference aged 16. He was educated at the University of Oxford. Hague first became a Member of Parliament at a by-election in 1989. In 1995, William Hague was made the Secretary of State for Wales until 1997 when the Conservatives lost the general election. He was elected as Conservative Party leader in 1997. Following the Conservative's defeat in the 2001 General Election, he resigned from the position and was succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith.

He went on to write biographies of William Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce and in 2005, when David Cameron became the Conservative Party leader, Hague was made the Shadow Foreign Secretary.


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