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Highs and lows of remarkable political career

WILLIAM Hague came back from leading the Conservatives to crushing defeat in the 2001 election to become one of the most effective members of David Cameron's team.

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He was catapulted to national attention as a 16-year-old when he unleashed his now familiar Yorkshire oratory on the 1977 party conference - to the delight of Margaret Thatcher and the media.

Educated at Wath-on-Dearne Comprehensive and Magdalen College, Oxford, he was elected president of the Oxford Union - a traditional springboard into national politics.

With an MBA from the noted INSEAD business school in France, he held jobs at Shell and management consultants McKinsey but was always destined to make his career in Westminster.

He cut his election teeth with defeat at the 1987 general election in the Labour stronghold of Wentworth, near Rotherham - where he was born on March 26 1961 - but within two years was in Parliament, winning a by-election in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

Under John Major he quickly climbed the ministerial ranks, entering the Cabinet as Welsh secretary in 1995 - a posting where he met civil servant Ffion Jenkins, whom he married in 1997.

By the time of his wedding he had taken on the unenviable task of fighting Tony Blair, who had been swept to power on an overwhelming wave of public support after 18 years of Tory rule.

Verbal victories over Mr Blair in the Commons were not enough as a succession of public relations blunders - including a much derided baseball cap emblazoned with his surname - splits over Europe and leadership speculation fatally undermined his four-year tenure.

A widely-criticised 2001 campaign ended with the Tories gaining just one seat and Mr Hague standing down, setting an unwanted precedent as the first Conservative leader not to become prime minister.

But the rehabilitation was almost as swift as the demise, with demand as an after-dinner speaker and directorships soon helping him become the best-paid MP on around £1 million a year, earnings swelled by award-winning biographies of fellow prodigy Pitt the Younger and William Wilberforce.

He was eventually persuaded to return as shadow foreign secretary and "senior member of the shadow cabinet" in 2005, a role Mr Cameron confirmed made him deputy leader "in all but name".

When the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition assumed office, Mr Hague was confirmed in the plum heavyweight job of Foreign Secretary.

But less than four months later he issued an extraordinary personal statement to counter internet rumours about his relationship with his special adviser Christopher Myers, who quit his post.

Mr Hague denied having an "improper" relationship with Mr Myers, although they had "occasionally shared twin hotel rooms".

He also revealed that his wife had suffered a number of miscarriages as they tried to start a family.

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