William Jefferson Hague

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Hague, William (b. 1961). Politician. Hague's meteoric rise to the leadership of the Conservative Party was assisted by the shattering defeat of 1997, which removed from Parliament a number of potential rivals. President of the Oxford Union (1981), he was returned for Richmond (Yorks.) in 1989. He served as minister for social security 1994–5 and secretary of state for Wales 1995–7. From 1997 his political task was to restore morale and credibility to a battered and divided party. He became a redoubtable Commons performer, quite capable of inflicting bruises on Tony Blair at question time. But despite a very vigorous election campaign in 2001, his party failed to make any progress at the polls and Hague resigned at once from the leadership, though continuing to represent Richmond. Blamed for adopting too right-wing a stance, it is far from certain that any other leader would have done better, and the succession to John Major had all the appearance of a poisoned chalice.

J. A. Cannon

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Hague, William Jefferson (1961– ) British politician, leader of the Conservative Party (1997–2001). He entered Parliament in 1989. In 1995, Hague joined John Major's cabinet as secretary of state for Wales. After the Conservatives' landslide defeat in the 1997 general election, he emerged as the youngest Tory leader since William Pitt (the Younger). A strong performer in the House of Commons, his anti-European single currency stance alienated some moderate party members. He resigned as Conservative leader immediately after defeat in the 2001 general election.

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