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William Hague (born March 26, 1961) is a British politician and former leader of the UK Conservative Party. Hague was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, a strongly working-class area, and caused a sensation at the age of sixteen by speaking at the Conservative party's national conference.
Subsequently, Hague went to Magdalen College, Oxford, and while there was President of the Oxford Union, a noted breeding-ground for political hopefuls and high-flyers. Fulfilling his early promise, he was elected to Parliament as member for Richmond, North Yorkshire in 1989, and 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 such a disaster in the role. Resolving not to emulate Redwood's farcical attempt to mime to the Welsh national anthem at a public event, Hague recruited a female 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, in the hope that a fresh young face would counteract the public appeal of Tony Blair. This change proved unsuccessful, however, as the Conservatives won only one more seat in the 2001 General Election than they had in the 1997 election. Following this defeat, Hague resigned as leader, thus becoming the first full Tory leader not to have become Prime Minister. (Sir Austen Chamberlain, who is often cited as failing to achieve this, was only Leader of Conservative MPs, not the full party.)
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.
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. His ability to convey serious points with humour, often at his own expense, makes him one of the best performers in the House.
Whilst now on the backbenches, he occasionally still speaks 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."
William Hague is no longer in the political spot light, and it seems unlikely that he will return to front-line politics in the near future. A much-praised performance as "guest host" on the satirical television programme "Have I Got News For You" may indicate a possible future direction to his career.