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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Private life begins at 40
William Hague (with wife Ffion) announces his resignation
A leader bows out at 40
William Hague is not the first politician to walk away from it all. But few have faced oblivion aged just 40. What next for him, asks BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley.

In 1977, a fresh-faced, mop-topped William Hague hectored the Tory faithful with a conference taunt to the effect of: "It's all right for you, you'll all be dead in a few years' time."

The 16-year-old William Hague
A great future behind him?
Could the teenage free-marketeer have imagined his star in the party would wane long before many of the delegates he was addressing had even retired, let alone passed away?

Once the Tories' youngest MP (at 27), and the party's youngest leader since Pitt the Younger (at 36), Mr Hague's political ambitions were also dealt a premature, possibly fatal, blow by the election result.

Roaring forties

So what now for a man whose less precocious political contemporaries are only just limbering up?

Mr Hague may be facing the same stresses experienced by anyone forced to leave their job, says occupational psychologist Dr Lea Brindle.

Many people "go into denial" when the proverbial P45 lands on their door mat. Some even feel a sense of "elation" and "freedom" when they find themselves suddenly out of work, says Dr Brindle.

William Hague enjoys a pint
Some people feel elated by their new freedom
"This is often replaced with depression. People enter the doldrums and become inactive."

To avoid "scraping along the bottom" for too long, Dr Brindle says the newly unemployed should create a new routine to replace the rituals of their old working day.

"It could be as simple as reading the papers for an hour every day or going to the gym, something to get you up and give you a sense of purpose."

Hit the beach

Few may feel they deserve a holiday straight after losing their job, but Dr Brindle says a break can be just the thing to recharge your reserves and give you a new perspective on your position.

"Often I see people who have been running on adrenalin. Taking a break gives them a valuable physical rest as well as being good for their mental well-being."

Peter Mandelson MP
Will Peter Mandelson have the last laugh?
Those cast into the political wilderness often owe their predicament to factors outside their control. Rebuilding a belief in their own abilities helps combat feelings of helplessness, he says.

"This can involve setting yourself achievable goals or focusing on a single project."

Twice sacked Labour star Peter Mandelson did just this, when he channelled his efforts into retaining his parliamentary seat.

Goodbye Notting Hill

"What matters for me isn't London, it's local, it's Hartlepool, where hopefully I will be able to perform more like a good constituency MP than a walking media event," he said.

Despite the attentions of veteran left-winger Arthur Scargill, Mr Blair's former confidante romped home victorious - and couldn't help but give vent to the anger which often accompanies a fall from grace.

"They underestimated me, because I am a fighter... not a quitter," he said when the results were announced, steel in his voice.

Michael Portillo visits Spain
"No, I was actually looking for Don Quixote."
When Michael Portillo was relieved of his Enfield Southgate seat, in what was a defining moment of the 1997 election, he took the opportunity to re-invent himself publicly.

His TV series, Portillo's Progress, allowed him to dissect the crushing Tory defeat that had ejected him from the Commons.

He later treated BBC TV viewers to a more personal odyssey, a trip back to his ancestral home in Spain, before once again returning to the Westminster fray.

Flex for success

"In my 20 years' experience, I've seen that it is those people who are flexible and able to see the bigger picture who succeed," he said.

However, it was a far from flexible veteran of the Tory wilderness who Mr Hague quoted on first winning his Richmond seat - Winston Churchill.

Churchill famously stuck to his course, even if it meant his exclusion from power and his party.

Winston Churchill
"I'm not moving"
"He was perhaps an example of a more fixed character," says Dr Brindle. "These people are like oil tankers at sea, they are difficult to turn around. But although they may not have much speed, they have the momentum to push on."

So will William press on, or retire to the backbenches for good?

Like many other observers, Dr Brindle suspects that a man who, as a youth, read Hansard rather than comics is unlikely to abandon his political ambitions.

"It's hard to imagine Mr Hague changing tack. I'm sure he's the sort who will regroup."

Your comments

The last time I was unemployed came after a period of work-related stress where I was so exhausted I couldn't appreciate my free time (and I hated my job). I used the period of unemployment to get my head sorted and reset my priorities. I borrowed loads of books (novels) from the public library and read in the local park. It cost me nothing and taught me so much more than I could have learned in a dead-end job!
Anthony, Germany (UK)

When I was forced to leave my web design job last year, I realised I would much prefer to work for myself rather than an uncaring corporation and used it as an oportunity to start my own design business. It's been harder without steady pay but I've also learned a lot more than I could working for anyone else.
Jessica, Canada

I spent the best part of 10 years putting body, mind and soul in a sales career. I got a good salary, but the whole thing left me drained empty. I spent eight joyful months unemployed, I discovered who my 3 year old son was and started an open university degree. I rediscovered what I actually enjoyed in life.
David Mackie, UK

Always try to apply for a job before you lose your old one, your voice and actions are far more authoritative. Try and keep at least five jobs in the air at a time, then the rejection letter thud on the carpet doesn't hurt quite so much
George Elliott

Let out your house. Put everything you own in a Transit van and go and live somewhere cheap for a year until things get better. My friends who kept their jobs didn't have half as much fun.
George B, UK

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BBC News Online's in-depth coverage of the Tory leadership contestTory leadership
In-depth report on Duncan Smith's victory
See also:

08 Jun 01 | Vote2001
08 Jun 01 | Vote2001
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