William Jefferson Hague, born 26 March 1961 is the British Foreign Secretary and First Secretary of State. He previously served as Leader of the Conservative Party from June 1997 to September 2001. In Parliament, he represents the constituency of Richmond (Yorks), having done so since 1989.
Educated at Ripon Grammar School, a selective grammar school, then the University of Oxford (graduating with First Class Honours in Philosophy Politics and Economics) and INSEAD, Hague was 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. After David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, Hague returned to front line politics as shadow foreign secretary. Later in 2010, upon Cameron becoming Prime Minister, Hague took on the roles of First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary.
Hague was born in Rotherham in Yorkshire. He initially boarded at Ripon Grammar School and then attended Wath-upon-Dearne Comprehensive, a state secondary school near Rotherham, then known as Wath Grammar School. Hague's father and mother ran a soft drinks manufacturing business for which he used to work during school holidays.
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 attenders, "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.
Hague studied PPE at Magdalen College, Oxford, graduating with First-Class Honours. He was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), but was also "convicted of electoral malpractice" in the process. OUCA's official historian David Blair notes that Hague was actually elected on a platform pledging to clean up OUCA, but that this was "tarnished by accusations that he misused his position as Returning Officer to help the Magdalen candidate for the Presidency, Peter Halley. Hague was playing the classic game of using his powers as President to keep his faction in power, and Halley was duly elected...There were accusations of blatant ballot box stuffing. On a subsequent visit to OUCA as a guest speaker in the 1990s, Hague was reported to have told them "It is not the election that one needs to worry about...it's more the tribunal thereafter.
William Hague married Ffion, née Jenkins, at the House of Commons Crypt in 1997. He is currently a Vice President of the Friends of the British Library, which provides funding support to the British Library to make new acquisitions. Hague is a Patron of the European Youth Parliament UK, an educational charity organisation that runs debating competitions and discussion forums across the UK. Hague is also a judo practitioner. He learnt the piano in his early 40s and has a keen interest in music. He is also an enthusiast for the natural history and countryside of his native Yorkshire.
In early September 2010, a number of newspapers including The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Daily Mail published stories about the fallout from allegations surrounding Hague's friendship with 25-year-old Christopher Myers, a history graduate from Durham University whom he employed as a parliamentary special adviser. A spokesperson stated that "Any suggestion that the Foreign Secretary's relationship with Chris Myers is anything other than a purely professional one is wholly inaccurate and unfounded. On 1 September 2010, Myers resigned from his position in the light of the press allegations. The media stories led Hague to make a public statement, in which he confirmed that he had "occasionally" shared a hotel room with Myers, but described as "utterly false" suggestions that he had ever been involved in a relationship with any man. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister David Cameron reported that he offered his "full support" over the media rumours. However, a number of figures from both within and without the Conservative Party criticised Hague for his personal response to the stories. Former Conservative leadership candidate John Redwood suggested that Hague showed "poor judgement"whilst Labour-supporting Speaker's wife Sally Bercow commented that Hague had been given "duff PR advice".Hague's political colleague and friend, the Conservative MP and government minister Alan Duncan, described the media coverage as "contemptible".
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.
Despite having only recently entered Parliament, Hague became part of the government in 1990, serving as Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont. 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. His fast rise up through the government is attributed to his intelligence and skills in debate.
He entered the Cabinet in 1995 as Secretary of State for Wales. 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.
Hague's appointment as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs was Prime Minister David Cameron's first. He was also appointed to the honorary position of First Secretary of State. In his first overseas visit as Foreign Secretary, Hague met with United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Washington, D.C.
In August 2010, Hague set out a values based foreign policy. He said that "We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large. The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human".
Hague said that "There will be no downgrading of human rights under this government and no resiling from our commitments to aid and development.
Hague was criticized by Israeli leaders after meeting with Palestinians who demonstrate against Israel's security barrier in the West Bank. He expressed solidarity with the idea of non-violence and listened to the accounts of left-wing and Palestinian activists. Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni condemned the statements, and said:
The security barrier has saved lives, and its construction was necessary. The barrier has separated Israel from Palestinian cities and completely changed the reality in Israel, where citizens were exposed to terror every day.
2011 Middle East protests
In February 2011 security forces in the Bahrain dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters at Pearl Square in the centre of the capital, Manama. Hague told the Commons he had stressed the need for peaceful action in dealing with the protesters. At least three people died in the operation, with hundreds more injured. We are greatly concerned about the deaths that have occurred. I have this morning spoken to the foreign minister of Bahrain and our ambassador spoke last night to the minister of the interior. "In both cases we stressed the need for peaceful action to address the concerns of protesters, the importance of respect for the right to peaceful protest and for freedom of expression.
Hague told Sky News that the use of force by the Libyan authorities during the 2011 Libyan protests was "dreadful and horrifying" and called on the leader to respect people's human rights. A vicious crackdown led by special forces, foreign mercenaries and Mummar Gaddafi loyalists was launched in the country's second city Benghazi, which has been the focus of anti-regime protests. Mr Hague told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "I think we have to increase the international pressure and condemnation. "The United Kingdom condemns what the Libyan Government has been doing and how they have responded to these protests, and we look to other countries to do the same.
Following delays in extracting British citizens from Libya, a disastrous helicotpter attempt to contact the protesters ending with 8 British diplomats/SAS arrested and no aircraft carriers or Harriers to enforce a no fly zone he was accused of losing his mojo in March 2011.
In March 2011 Hague said in a speech to business leaders that the examples being set in north Africa and the Middle East will ultimately transform the relationship between governments and their populations in the region. However following the row over whether Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was being targeted by coalition forces, the Foreign Secretary stated that the Libyan people must be free to determine their own future. Mr Hague said: "It is not for us to choose the government of Libya - that is for the Libyan people themselves. "But they have a far greater chance of making that choice now than they did on Saturday, when the opposition forces were on the verge of defeat.
Elected EU president
In June 2011 Hague dismissed Tony Blair's vision for an elected head of the European Union by insisting that member states have more pressing priorities than further "constitutional tinkering". Hague made clear his view after Blair argued that a directly elected president of Europe, representing almost 400m people from 27 countries, would give the EU clear leadership and enormous authority. In an interview with The Times, Blair set out the agenda that he thought a directly elected EU president should pursue, although he conceded there was "no chance" of such a post being created "at the present time". Asked about the former prime minister's call for further European integration and the creation of an elected president, Hague suggested that Blair may have been thinking of the role for himself. "I can't think who he had in mind," Hague joked. Hague added: "Elected presidents are for countries. The EU is not a country and it's not going to become a country, in my view, now or ever in the future. It is a group of countries working together.
In June 2011 Hague, has said that Britain helped initiate “distasteful” peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Hague made the comments while on a three-day tour of the country to meet President Hamid Karzai and visited British troops. He told The Sun newspaper that Britain had led the way in persuading President Barack Obama’s administration that negotiation was the best potential solution to the conflict. He admitted that any deal might mean accepting “distasteful things” and could anger military veterans and relatives of the 374 British troops killed in Afghanistan. However, he said he believed that Britain as a whole was “realistic and practical” enough to accept that ending fighting and starting talks was the best way to safeguard national security. He told the newspaper: “An eventual settlement of these issues is the ultimate and most desirable way of safeguarding that national security He said that “But reconciliation with people who have been in a military conflict can be very distasteful. “In all these types of situations, you do have to face up to some distasteful things.” The previous night President Obama told Americans that “the tide of war is receding” as he announced plans to withdraw 33,000 US troops from Afghanistan by September 2012.
The Spectator's "Parliamentarian of the Year Award" (1998)
History Book of the Year in the 2005 British Book Awards, for William Pitt the Younger
The Spectator's 'Speech of the Year Award' (2007)
The Trustees Award at the 2008 Longman/History Today Awards
Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (2009)
Master William Hague (1961–1977)
Mr William Hague (1977–89)
Mr William Hague MP (1989–95)
The Rt. Hon. William Hague MP (1995–2009)
The Rt. Hon. William Hague FRSL MP (2009-)