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banner Monday, 2 October, 2000, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
William, the movie
Willam and Ffion Hague
The Hagues in more formal attire
By BBC News Online's Nyta Mann

It was not investigative journalism. Nor was it a searching examination of the finer, or even broader, points of the Conservative leader's programme for government.

"Was it love at first sight?" was probably the toughest question William Hague faced during Channel 4's "Just William... and Ffion".

Even then, the Tory leader - sitting beside his wife on what appeared to be a grassy knoll - was allowed to get away with immediately changing the subject, announcing: "This is our favourite place!"

But for the Tories the bio-pic was eve-of-conference coverage money couldn't buy, not least because political advertising on television is banned in the UK.

Director and self-confessed Labour supporter Charlotte Metcalf spent six months trailing Mr Hague and interviewing friends, aides and family members for the film.

Most footage of shadow cabinet meetings ended up on the cutting room floor - "far too boring", according to Ms Metcalf. Apart from the Tory leader himself, Hague aide Sebastian (Lord) Coe was the only politician to have a significant presence on the screen.

Yorkshire roots

Early on, we saw Mr Hague setting out his serene philosphy "never to whine about the media". How unlike neurotic New Labour, was the subtext.

Inevitably, then, it wasn't long before we saw him complaining to a TV set over a "typical, slanted, Paxman, stupid question". Later we caught him muttering under his breath that a Guardian journalist was talking "rubbish".

But above all, the film stressed his sheer Yorkshire-ness, albeit well-to-do Yorkshire. Much time was spent in and around his Richmond constituency, where 'Prime Minister Hague' would endeavour to spend "every weekend in two".

The Yorkshire Dales was the aforementioned "favourite place" through which William and Ffion hiked whenever they could. At a local bed-and-breakfast run by an elderly friend known as "Mother Goose", the opposition leader expressed delight on discovering "proper HP sauce" among the condiments.

There was also plenty of the speak-as-I-find, plain talk supposedly characteristic of God's country.

'Tory pig'

Mr Hague's three older sisters were seen making sure their little brother knew he was no better than he should be.

Veronica, who christened him "Tory Pig" when he entered his Hansard-reading, speechifying teenage political anorak phase in the 1970s, was seen dismissing as a "yawner" an international gathering of centre-right party leaders that Hague was due to address.

She also told him she may, after all, take the plunge and attend this year's Tory conference to see Mr Hague presiding - because "I think this might be the last chance. How can I put this politely?"

The butt of this humour told the cameras: "I had a happy childhood. If you have three sisters you learn to answer back, and eat quickly. You can learn to look after yourself."

At one stage, Mr Hague was seen preparing for Prime Minister's Questions, a forum in which he usually out-performs Tony Blair.

After rehearsing what he is going to say with his aides - it turns out those cutting jokes at Mr Blair's expense are more minutely scripted than previously thought - the Tory leader said: "I enjoy debate and I take this duty very seriously.

"I am the one person in the country who can ask [Mr Blair] six questions, however rude, every week and I regard that as one of the things I do on behalf of the millions of people who wish they could ask him the questions."

Alas, no one appeared to be playing that role in Ms Metcalf's film.

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