UK Conservative politician, party leader 1997–2001, foreign and Commonwealth secretary 2010–14, and first secretary of state and leader of the House of Commons 2014–15. After his party's defeat in the May 1997 general election, he succeeded John Major as leader. After the Conservatives suffered a landslide defeat in the 2001 general election, he resigned as party leader and was replaced by Iain Duncan Smith. In December 2005, after a period on the backbenches, he became shadow foreign secretary under the new Conservative leader, David Cameron. In May 2010 Cameron appointed him foreign secretary and first secretary of state in the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition government. Hague's period as foreign secretary was dominated by instability across the Arab world – with civil wars in Libya and Syria – UK military withdrawal from Iraq (in 2011) and Afghanistan (in 2014), and the eurozone crisis. In July 2014, Hague became leader of the Commons. In May 2015 he retired as an MP to concentrate on his other interests, including writing and chairing a taskforce on the illegal wildlife trade. In August 2015 he was created a life peer, entering the House of Lords with the title Lord Hague of Richmond.
Hague entered the House of Commons in 1989, representing the constituency of Richmond, Yorkshire, and was private secretary to the chancellor of the Exchequer 1990–93, parliamentary under-secretary of state for social security 1993–94, minister for social security and disabled people 1994–95, and secretary of state for Wales 1995–97.
As party leader, in 1998 he committed the party to oppose joining the European single currency for at least a decade and launched major reforms of the party's organization. Although skilled in parliamentary debate, he lacked the media skills of his opponent, Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Hague came to public attention in 1977 when, at the age of 16, he addressed the Conservative party's annual conference. He was educated at a comprehensive school and at Oxford University where he studied politics, philosophy, and economics, and became president of the Union in 1981. After completing an MBA course he worked for a management consultancy company 1983–88 before entering full-time politics.
In the final ballot of the party leadership election in May 1997, Hague beat the former chancellor of the Exchequer, Kenneth Clarke, by a margin of 92 votes to 70. The youngest party leader for more than 200 years, Hague promised to unite the party and included in his shadow cabinet three of his rivals for leadership, Michael Howard, Peter Lilley, and John Redwood (Clarke had earlier declined an invitation to join him). However, in June 1999, Hague carried out a major reshuffle of his shadow cabinet, including the sacking of his deputy, Lilley.
He was the first party leader not to become prime minister.
Hague, William (Jefferson)
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