William Hague

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William Hague in 2010

William Jefferson Hague, Baron Hague of Richmond (born 26 March 1961) is a British Conservative Party politician and life peer who served as Leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition from 1997 to 2001. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Richmond (Yorks) in North Yorkshire from 1989 to 2015. He served in the Cameron government as First Secretary of State from 2010 to 2015, Foreign Secretary from 2010 to 2014, and Leader of the House of Commons from 2014 to 2015.




  • I was the driver's mate, delivering the bottles and beer around South Yorkshire. We used to have a pint at every stop – well the driver's mate did, not the driver, thankfully – and we used to have about 10 stops in a day. You worked so hard you didn't feel you'd drunk 10 pints by four o'clock, you used to sweat so much. But then you had to lift all the empties off the lorry. It's probably horrifying but we used to do that then go home for tea and then go out in the evening to the pub.
    • Interview, GQ magazine, August 2000
    • Reminiscing about his days delivering soft drinks for the family firm while a teenager. The interviewer asked whether that might make 14 pints per day and Hague agreed.
  • Nothing is more absurd than a Prime Minister who has committed us in principle to joining the Euro saying last week that he was against it. He talks about his five tests; we know what they are: "Does Peter want it? Will Gordon let me? Will the French like it? Will Robin notice? Can I get away with it?
    • Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons (25 October 2000).
  • In the Prime Minister, we have a man who has forfeited the right to be believed or to be trusted. In more than 20 years in politics, he has betrayed every cause he believed in, contradicted every statement he has made, broken every promise he has given and breached every agreement that he has entered into. In 1982, the Prime Minister said that we would negotiate a withdrawal from the EEC. In 1994, he said: "Under my leadership, I will never allow this country to be isolated." In 1996, he said that he had made it clear that if it is in Britain's interest to be isolated then we will be isolated. There is a lifetime of U-turns, errors and sell-outs. All those hon. Members who sit behind the Prime Minister and wonder whether they stand for anything any longer, or whether they defend any point of principle, know who has led them to that sorry state. In one of his frequent meetings with the former leader of the Liberal party, whom he so much preferred to meeting his own Cabinet, the Prime Minister told us as it is. He said that he had taken from his party everything they thought they believed in and had stripped them of their core beliefs and that what kept them together was power.
    • Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons (6 December 2000).
  • I thank the Prime Minister for his remarks about me. Debating with him at the Dispatch Box has been exciting, fascinating, fun, an enormous challenge and, from my point of view, wholly unproductive in every sense. I am told that in my time at the Dispatch Box I have asked the Prime Minister 1,118 direct questions, but no one has counted the direct answers—it may not take long.
    • Prime Minister's Questions, House of Commons (18 July 2001).


  • For the first time in history at Question Time, all three parties are represented by a stand-in for the real leader.
    • Prime Minister's Questions, House of Commons (15 February 2006). Deputising for David Cameron who was absent, but Tony Blair was answering questions as the active leader of the Labour party. Hague was suggesting that Gordon Brown was the "true" power behind the party.
  • To see how the post of a permanent President of the European Council could evolve is not difficult even for the humblest student of politics, and it is, of course, rumoured that one Tony Blair may be interested in the job. Now, if that makes us uncomfortable on these benches, just imagine how it is viewed in Downing Street! I must warn Ministers opposite that having tangled with Tony Blair across this Dispatch Box on literally hundreds of occasions, I know his mind almost as well as they do. I can tell them that when he goes off to a major political conference of a centre-right party and simultaneously refers to himself as a socialist, he is on manoeuvres, and is busily building coalitions as only he can. We can all picture the scene at a European Council sometime next year. Picture the face of our poor Prime Minister as the name of "Blair" is nominated by one President and Prime Minister after another: the look of utter gloom on his face at the nauseating, glutinous praise oozing from every Head of Government, the rapid revelation of a majority view, agreed behind closed doors when he, as usual, was excluded. Never would he regret more no longer being in possession of a veto: the famous dropped jaw almost hitting the table, as he realises there is no option but to join in. And then the awful moment when the motorcade of the President of Europe sweeps into Downing Street. With gritted teeth and bitten nails: the Prime Minister emerging from his door with a smile of intolerable anguish; the choking sensation as the words, "Mr President", are forced from his mouth. And then, once in the Cabinet room, the melodrama of, "When will you hand over to me?" all over again.
  • [To Harriet Harman] Before turning to domestic issues, I was going to be nice to the right hon. and learned Lady. She has had a difficult week. She had to explain yesterday that she dresses in accordance with wherever she is going: she wears a helmet on a building site, she wears Indian clothes in the parts of her constituency with a large representation of Indian people, so when she goes to a Cabinet meeting, she presumably dresses as a clown. As I said, I was going to be nice to her before her previous response.
    • Prime Minister's Questions, House of Commons (2 April 2008).


  • [T]he Conservative Party is like an absolute monarchy, but this is qualified by regicide. If we take any form of PR back to our parliamentary colleagues, they will be looking for new leadership
  • It remains the case that the single biggest terrorist threat to this country remains al-Qaeda, or people inspired by al-Qaeda, but what has happened is a reminder that it is not the only source of violent extremist or terrorist attack.
  • The very making of these allegations undermined Britain's standing in the world as a country that upholds international law and abhors torture. As a government we understand how important it is that we not only uphold our values and international law, but that we are seen to do so.


  • We also need to see how changes in the eurozone are affecting the EU and how that affects this country and the relationship of the countries together. But when we have done that there is a strong case for fresh consent in this country and the people of this country having their say.
  • It is about... making a success of membership of the EU but also with democratic consent for that in its modern form and the best form that we can bring about.
  • I welcome the formation of the new Israeli Government. I warmly congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu on his second consecutive term in office at this important time in Israel’s history. We look forward to working with his new Government to further develop our strong bilateral relations and to advance our successful partnerships in areas such as trade, security, science, technology and higher education. As I have said previously, there is no more urgent foreign policy priority in 2013 than making progress towards achieving the two-state solution. I have urged the United States to lead international efforts to revive the peace process and pledged that the UK will spare no effort in mobilising European Union and Arab states behind decisive moves for peace. I welcome President Obama’s visit to the region next week. I call on Prime Minister Netanyahu, and President Abbas, to demonstrate leadership and courage in working with the international community to secure the peace which is so strongly in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians.
  • We will continue to work closely with the Somalia government on shared priorities, which include tackling conflict, countering terrorism and piracy, providing humanitarian assistance, and promoting UK interests in Somalia
  • To end up destroying the UK and gravely weakening the European Union would not be a very clever day's work. So, even as a long-standing critic of so much of that struggling organisation, I am unlikely in 2016 to vote to leave it.


  • The electorate voted to leave the EU, and therefore we leave. What is more, the number of people who voted to do so was higher than the number of votes cast for any government in our history. To me and many of my former colleagues in government who preferred to remain, the argument was over.
  • [Philip Hammond] has evidently been trying to persuade his cabinet colleagues that we should be seeking to stay in the EU single market and customs union during a transition and 'implementation' phase lasting to 2022, followed by a free trade deal with our former partners after that. This is seen by longstanding advocates of leaving as a 'soft' position or a climbdown. But in reality it is a plan to rescue Brexit from an approaching disaster.
  • Imagine going back to the people of this country and saying 'you got this wrong in the referendum, you may have turned out in record numbers and most of the country voted to leave but nevertheless we think you got it wrong and we are going to run it again'. Imagine the hate-filled campaign that would divide this country. I do not think that is a price worth paying.


  • [On the history of former prime ministers and their successors] Now think of Boris Johnson. All of these feelings will apply to him. He is going to be [Edward] Heath with jokes added in, and [Margaret] Thatcher with consistency taken out, all rolled into a bundle of resentment, denial, attention-seeking and attempted vindication that will be a permanent nightmare for the new prime minister.
    That he wants revenge on Rishi Sunak is already apparent, but if Liz Truss is elected, she will face the identical problem. The chances of her loyalty to him being repaid are close to zero. Boris lives his life as a performance, and he will want the next act to fill every seat in the theatre of British political life.
    The Conservative Party had no choice but to remove Johnson from office. His standards of governance and veracity had fallen below what reasonable people could defend. The downside is that the party will always have the problem of what he will say next.
    • "Tories must beware Boris the incredible sulk" The Times (25 July 2022)
    • Boris Johnson announced his intention to resign as Prime Minister on 7 July 2022, remaining in a caretaker role until Liz Truss was elected as his successor and Johnson resigned as PM on 6 September. Liz Truss herself resigned as PM on 25 October 2023 and was succeeded by Rishi Sunak.
  • In the distant days when I was Tory leader I had a private rule never to appeal for party unity. This was mainly because, if your request as a leader for unity is promptly followed by more infighting, you look even less credible and in charge than before you asked. It was also a recognition that unity is seldom produced by calling for it. Unity arises from a leader creating the conditions for it.
  • Labour looks less alarming than under Neil Kinnock but it is also a lot less exciting than under either him or Blair. The party is not the wave of the future, as it was in the early days of New Labour. Sir Keir Starmer's team are currently interesting because they are judged to be close to power, rather than being close to power because they are judged to be interesting. And excitement doesn't even come into it.
  • Those of us who have been in public life have all had the privilege of meeting extraordinary people — soldiers who kept fighting when injured, Paralympic athletes who triumphed, small businesses that learnt from failure to succeed — and have seen the power of moving on without rancour or self-pity. Political leaders would do well to aspire to those attributes and to shoulder their own share of responsibility. If you became prime minister, with a majority behind you and a decent term in front of you, but were overthrown amid chaos, there is indeed someone to blame. It’s you.


  • I don’t envy the remaining Tory MPs. It was a hard job in 1997 and this time it will be even tougher. There's a moment when you understand you face the challenge of your lifetime, but that's a sign you’ve only just begun to grasp it. For the Conservative Party, the next big move can start a recovery or bring extinction.

Quotations about William Hague

  • To make matters worse, they have elected a foetus as the party leader. I bet a lot of them wish they had not voted against abortion now!
  • [I]f I were looking for advice on what to wear or what not to wear, the very last person I would look to is the man in the baseball cap.
    • Harriet Harman at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons standing in for Gordon Brown Hansard HC Debates Vol. 474 (2 April 2008). While he was the Conservative party leader, he received negative publicity for wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the word "HAGUE" during a visit to the Alton Towers theme park.
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