Like Neil Kinnock, William Hague inherited his party at its lowest point; this time around, it was the Conservative Party and the year was 1997. In a landslide defeat for the Conservatives, Labour had over 400 seats, the most seats ever held by a single political party in British history, a margin that easily enabled New Labour to coast through three consecutive electoral victories.
William Hague at 36 was the youngest man to lead the Conservatives since Pitt the Younger, whose biography Hague would later write. With an almost-shaved head and childish face, the Tory leader was quickly renamed, ‘foetus’; Hague tried hard to shred this image in what would become one of the most disastrously iconic PR moments. Hague visited a theme park with his Chief of Staff and the local MP, all wearing baseball caps emblazoned with the word ‘HAGUE’. In America, where his sister lived and where Hague frequently vacationed, the baseball cap was normal headgear but, in Britain, act was described as “juvenile” while Hague himself was pilloried in the press. Simon Heffer in the Daily Mail wrote Hague “looked like a child-molester on a day release scheme”.
BBC however noted that “the incident did not mark the end of Mr Hague’s honeymoon period as party leader because there had never been much of a honeymoon period to end.” Political career of self-made millionaire was over before it began. Conservatives won only one extra seat in 2001 and Hague resigned immediately as leader; he became the first Conservative leader not to have become Prime Minister since Austen Chamberlain in the early 1920s.
Hague took up the piano that very night, began a career as a biography author and its now the Shadow Foreign Secretary. I wonder what will happen to him after this election.