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Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK


UK Politics

Hague's first year - a chronology



William Hague took over the leadership of the Conservative Party one year ago:


June 19, 1997 - William Hague becomes Conservative Party Leader

June 27, 1997 - Calls for referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam

In his first major speech as party leader, at the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Perth, William Hague calls for a referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam. The policy is later quietly dropped.

August 4, 1997 - The baseball cap

Mr Hague takes a trip to Flambard's theme park in Cornwall with other Tories. They wear blue baseball caps with the name Hague emblazoned on the front. The headgear raises eyebrows - especially from traditional Tories - and is seen as a radical attempt for recognition. Opinion polls suggest people do not know who the Conservative Party leader is.

August 7, 1997 - Mrs Thatcher tells him to marry

It is widely reported that Lady Thatcher is less than thrilled at the prospect of Mr Hague and his fiancee Ffion Jenkins sharing a suite together at this year's party conference. She is said to have instructed party chairman, Lord Parkinson, to "tell him to get married before the conference and not afterwards."

Mr Hague retorts in an interview in the Commons magazine, The House, saying "I don't think people do disapprove of us co-habiting ... This is the late 20th century after all, so I do not expect people to make a fuss of us staying in the same suite at this week's conference."

August 25, 1997 - William and Ffion go to the Notting Hill Carnival

Mr Hague and his fiancee pose for photographs amongst other carnival goers. Their appearance is seen by a cynical press as another photo-opportunity attempt to raise his public profile and appeal to the younger voter by proving his trendy credentials.


Only three months into his leadership, the week of September 14 to September 22 is widely regarded in the press as Mr Hague's worst week. The culmination of a series of media gaffes combined with his proposals for party reform, attract criticism from within even his own band of MPs.

September 14, 1997 - Commenting on Mr Blair and Princess Diana's funeral

Senior Tories Cecil Parkinson and Lord Tebbit, among others, refuse to echo Mr Hague's accusation on BBC television's Breakfast With Frost that Tony Blair had made political capital out of Diana's funeral through Number 10 leaking his input into funeral arrangements.

Lord Tebbit says Mr Hague is inexperienced. There is also a conspicuous lack of support for Mr Hague's call for London's Heathrow Airport to be renamed after Princess Diana.

September 15, 1997 - Ken Clarke's shaky endorsement

Former chancellor and leadership frontrunner Ken Clarke has already refused to rule himself out as a future leader of the party. His comment that "It's far too soon for this kind of carping criticism" sounds more ominous than reassuring for Mr Hague.

September 20, 1997 - Alan Clark criticises party reform

In a letter to The Times newspaper, high-profile Conservative MP Alan Clark strongly criticises the method by which William Hague seeks a mandate to bring forward his six "principles of reform".

Linking grassroots' endorsement of him as leader with approval of his reform programme in the ballot question to all party members would "confer a blank check on a small coterie of management consultants to proceed as they think fit", says Mr Clark. He also draws attention to the danger inherent in endowing the centre with the "powers to impose de-selection by edict".

September 22, 1997 - Hague: 'Back me or sack me'

In an article for The Daily Telegraph newspaper Mr Hague writes that "without a mandate for change, I do not believe the job of Conservative Party leader would be worth having."

September 25, 1997 - Nicholas Winterton fears 'Stalinist' Hague party

In a interview for BBC Radio another Tory MP criticises Mr Hague's leadership. Nicholas Winterton is quoted as suggesting that Hague reforms would create a "Stalinist" party.

September 25, 1997 - 100th day as leader and the ballot on reforms closes

October 7-10, 1997 - Conservative Party Conference - Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Mr Hague's speech ended a conference that was seen by many as a bloodletting process which could unite or divide the party.

His speech redefined what Conservatism was about and he attempted to throw off the sleaze-ridden and divided image of the "old" Tories and set his party on a new course. He said the "vultures" had come to Blackpool to pick over the carcass of the party, but, far from being dead, the Tories had embarked on reform and renewal that would make them fit to govern at the next election.

One of the key themes for his appearance was "tolerance" and he was determined to repaint the party as "caring" and "inclusive".

October 29, 1997 - Ken Clarke breaks ranks over European Monetary Union policy and Ian Taylor resigns

In an article for The Daily Telegraph, Mr Clarke calls for a cross-party pro-Euro campaign. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he initiates a new public row over the Conservative Party's European policy.

Also the Conservative Party's Northern Ireland spokesman, Ian Taylor, resigns over the policy to effectively rule out joining a single currency for 10 years.

October 30, 1997 - Heseltine and Temple-Morris join Clarke Euro criticisms

Top Tory Michael Heseltine takes up the mantle of pro-Euro Tory leader on the Today programme, saying "someone has got to lance the boil." Peter Temple-Morris holds a press conference to say that he will not quit the Tory party - despite aligning himself with Labour's pro-Euro policy - because of the increasing numbers of MPs campaigning against party policy.

November 21, 1997 - Temple-Morris leaves the party

The whip is withdrawn from Peter Temple-Morris following his behaviour of "repeatedly and publicly" questioning his commitment to the party. Temple-Morris then resigns from the party and declares that he will sit on the government benches for the rest of this Parliament, but as an Independent One Nation Conservative.

December 19, 1997 - William and Ffion marry


"William was word perfect, Ffion's a star"
At 2.38pm on Friday, December 19, in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace of Westminster, William Jefferson Hague and Ffion Llywelyn Jenkins are married.

The private ceremony lasts over an hour because it takes place in both Welsh and English. There are about 170 guests and they go on to Speaker's House afterwards for the reception.

Mrs Jenkins will retain her maiden name for her professional life

January 23, 1998 - Tory rebels for Hague to back down on leadership rules

Mr Hague tries to push through changes to the party's constitution so that a no confidence motion in the party leader would require backing by 20% of Tory MPs instead of 10%. But he is forced to compromise on 15% after the influential 1922 Committee re-opens the debate. Committee members are quoted as saying they just do not like being pushed around.

February 17, 1998 - Launch of blueprint for the future

Mr Hague launches "A Fresh Future", his policy document for a new Conservative Party. Essentially the message is the same as at the party's annual conference in October, that he has created a party which will act decisively to rid itself of scandal and is keen to involve and listen to members and the public.

May 1, 1998 - One year after the General Election, polls point to Hague image problem

A MORI poll for The Times reports that on 14 measures of leadership Mr Hague rates less favourably not only than Mr Blair but he is also beaten by Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown. The Times says: "Mr Hague's image compares with that which John Major had for much of his leadership in being seen as out of touch and tending to talk down to people."

A Gallup poll for the Daily Telegraph says only 12% of those polled would choose Mr Hague as the party leader who would "make the best prime minister", compared with 55% for Mr Blair and 17.4% for Mr Ashdown.

However the same Gallup poll shows a clear majority of those polled, 52%, think he is "succeeding in modernising the party". The proportion of voters who think he is "proving a good leader of the Conservative Party" is low at 38%, but that figure is nearly double the percentage in the autumn of 1997.

May 6, 1998 - Hywel Williams publishes 'guilty men'

John Redwood's former adviser, campaign chief and head of his Conservative 2000 think tank, publishes an account of 1997 leadership contest. He exposes Mr Redwood's ridicule of Mr Hague and the account is serialised in The Times.

May 19, 1998 - Hague makes a speech opposing monetary union

Mr Hague makes a speech at the Insead business school at Fontainebleau in France, of which he is a graduate. The speech lays out constitutional and political objections to monetary union and is met with strong criticism by Mr Clarke and Mr Heseltine.

Mr Heseltine says that Mr Hague was "in danger of losing the centre ground...and you can't win unless you come from the centre ground".

May 29, 1998 - Leon Brittan makes speech denouncing stance on Europe

A friend of Mr Hague, European Commissioner and former Tory cabinet minister Sir Leon Brittan, makes a speech at the Carlton Club in London saying that Mr Hague is out of date on Europe. He says Mr Hague's view is a "fundamentally flawed anachronism" and that "William Hague is applying a 1980s vision to a simplified caricature of the 1970s".

May 29, 1998 - Poll suggests euro-sceptic stance is out of public favour

The Times publishes the results of a MORI poll under the headline "Public prefers Labour to the Tory sceptics". The article says "William Hague's harder line on the European Single Currency and the divisions it has created do not seem to have gone down well."

June 10, 1998 - Hague reshuffles shadow cabinet

William Hague moved to recast the Tories in his own image with a root-and-branch reshuffle of his top team that puts eurosceptic new-bloods firmly in control.

In a radical shake-up, he also turns his big guns onto Labour's declared key policy areas - health, education and the economy - and brings "fresh faces" onto the Opposition front benches.

It is seen as an attempt to sow the seeds of a future front bench that will match Labour's youth and "freshness" and give the Tories a coherent new identity. But the reshuffle also attempts to revitalise the Tories' flagging public image. The latest opinion polls still suggest William Hague is the invisible leader, with Tony Blair scoring a higher satisfaction factor - even amongst Conservative supporters.

June 10, 1998 - Portillo criticises approach to NHS

In a speech to the Royal College of Nursing Michael Portillo, former Tory Minister, MP and heir to Mrs Thatcher leadership, made hard hitting accusations about the government and the Conservative Party's approach to the NHS.

He criticised them both for being too cautious and afraid to back substantial reform for fear of massive political reprisals.


Source: BBC research



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