New `Mr Pitt' had poster of Thatcher pinned to the wall of his bedroom


WILLIAM HAGUE grinned inanely as his idol, Lady Thatcher, repeatedly endorsed him just a day before he was elected Tory party leader. Only a few years ago, he had her poster pinned to his bedroom wall and now she was declaring him to be her rightful heir.

This was the moment he had always dreamt of. At the age of 36, Mr Hague is the youngest leader of the Tory party for over 200 years. Despite his apolitical family background, at the age of 13 William had joined the Conservative Party; at 15 he ordered Hansard from his local newsagents. And a year later, he famously attacked the Tory "wets" at the 1977 party conference.

As Mrs Thatcher, then leader of the opposition, watched in amusement, the teenager passionately advocated Thatcherism. The Tory faithful went wild, prompting Mrs Thatcher to declare: "We are standing here with possibly another young Mr Pitt."

During the leadership campaign, Mr Hague has been subjected to numerous smears over his sexuality, which were further fuelled by his sudden decision to support gay marriages. However, Mr Hague has repeatedly insisted he is heterosexual, while posing for photographers with his arm around his blonde fiancee, Ms Ffion Jenkins.

According to Mr Hague, he would have refused to stand for the Tory leadership if Ms Jenkins had not supported him. Even his mother and three sisters, who still call him "Tory pig", publicly announced that they hoped he would lose because of the press intrusion and lack of privacy.

But Ms Jenkins willingly encouraged him, and even advised her fiance where to place his arms around her waist for photo-shoots. Mr Hague also revealed to the media that he is attracted to strong and powerful women.

Even his friends were surprised by his sudden engagement to Ms Jenkins after a four-year courtship, claiming it was the best-kept secret in Whitehall. As his parliamentary secretary, Ms Jenkins taught him the Welsh national anthem following his surprise promotion as Welsh secretary in 1995. He was then the youngest Tory cabinet minister this century.

Clearly determined to shrug off his enemies' claims that he is "Hague the Vague" or worst still, for the Tory party, "John Major Mark II", a number of Mr Hague's childhood friends have come forward to recount drinking tales and prove that he is not just "a political animal".

"He was always able to take his drink. I reckon at one party he drank 32 rum and cokes before staggering home but I don't think he has touched rum since," recalled one friend.

Proud of his Yorkshire roots, Mr Hague insists he is the "man of the people" because of his comprehensive school education. "It gave him the common touch, he can get on with anyone, he loves people," says his mother.

After school, he went to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he secured a first in politics, philosophy and economics. While at business school in France, he kept in touch with his Tory friends, and began writing speeches for a number of cabinet ministers.

In 1989, at the age of 27, he was elected to the House of Commons it was to be the last by-election the Tories won. Apparently during the selection meeting for the north Yorkshire Richmond constituency, Mr Hague wowed the locals by warning them to lock up their daughters if he became their MP.