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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 17:27 GMT
'My image hurt election bid' - Hague
Former Conservative Party leader William Hague
Hague says the media is image obsessed
William Hague has admitted his nerdish image contributed to the Conservative Party's general election defeat.

In his first broadcast interview since resigning as Tory leader, Mr Hague said his leadership would probably have fared better if he had led during a less image conscious era in the 1870s or 1770s.

His fondness for baseball cap wearing, judo and water rides had all cost him dear, he told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on Sunday.

Mr Hague also told how he knew defeat was likely months before the election and while he continued to fight to win, made plans then to make way for a new leader.

'Image obsessed'

Asked about his public image, Mr Hague said: "I had a problem getting people to see what I was really like.

"Because the modern media are image obsessed they think that everything you do yourself is about your image."

You have to actually consciously work out how you're going to present yourself as you really are

William Hague
Former Tory leader

Mr Hague said taking up judo had been interpreted as a sign he was trying to be a "hard man" and that getting married had also been interpreted as being about image rather than love.

"The awful thing, though, you see is that you have to actually consciously work out how you're going to present yourself as you really are," Mr Hague said.


But he denied that his image was anything more than one factor in his failure and pointed to other key problems to getting his message across.

"I think a huge part of the reason for that is many people had tuned out of politics," he explained.

In 1997, voters had elected a Labour government intending to give it "more than one chance".

Mr Hague's own election campaign has come under fire from many senior Conservatives for focusing too much on saving the pound and not enough on public services.
Ffion Hague
Ffion would 'certainly' be missed if shipwrecked

The former Tory leader instead insisted his party went to the polls with the right policies but many people were just not ready to hear a "Conservative message".

"Actually the voters were going to give Labour the benefit of the doubt on health and education at the last election, almost whatever we said."

Current Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith would fare better, Mr Hague predicted.

"I think he's full of common sense policies and I think he will have a much greater chance of success at the next election than we ever had at the last election," he said.

Fought to win

Mr Hague, the youngest Conservative leader since William Pitt the Younger, said he knew for a "long time" before the election it may not turn out as he hoped.

He had still fought the election campaign to win but admitted: "It had always been my clear view for a long time before the election that if we didn't do a lot better...then we should have a new leader for the next parliament."

Mr Hague's desert island choices included American saxophonist Scott Hamilton's Black Velvet, Elgar's Nimrod and Frank Sinatra's That's Life.

I'm coping well I think with a major discontinuity in life now

William Hague
He suggested his recent setbacks could stand him in good stead for the shipwrecked life.

"I'm coping well, I think, with a major discontinuity in life now," he said.

"I'm not exactly on a desert island, some people might think I am politically, but I don't feel like that personally."

Mr Hague has taken up business posts with an engineering firm in his home town of Rotherham and with digger manufacturers JCB.

He is learning the piano, doing more judo and spending more time at home in Yorkshire.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Hague digs up new business roles
09 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Hague wins Tory cheers
05 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Hague not taken seriously - Tory MP
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Politicians' paintings unveiled
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