UK & World News
William Hague Ends 40-Year Tory Career
William Hague burst on to the political scene at the age of 16 when he took the 1977 Conservative Party conference by storm.
Nearly 40 years later he has stolen the headlines again with his bombshell resignation announcement overshadowing the rest of David Cameron's reshuffle.
"Role as Leader of the House means I will finish in politics as I began - speaking in Parliament and campaigning among the voters," he tweeted.
He says after the General Election, when he will step down as MP for the "All Creatures Great and Small" constituency of Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales, he will return to writing, supporting the Tories and campaigning on international issues.
So he's likely to continue his high-profile trips with Angelina Jolie campaigning against sexual violence in conflict, while giving up the dross of EU foreign ministers' meetings and other tiresome international summits.
He will also, I predict, return to the lucrative after-dinner speaking circuit, where he made a handsome income after stepping down as Tory leader until his recall to the front line by David Cameron in 2005.
His replacement as Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, has none of the flair or wit of Mr Hague, though he has proved to be a safe pair of hands at the Ministry of Defence and won the trust of previously sceptical military chiefs.
After his barnstorming conference speech at 16, William Hague waited another 12 years before becoming an MP in the by-election caused when Leon Brittan - back in the news again now - went to Brussels as an EU commissioner.
He only won the by-election because the Liberals and Social Democrats, then going through an acrimonious merger, fought against each other. But since then, Mr Hague has turned Richmond into one of the safest Tory seats in the country.
He was a junior minister, then Welsh secretary when John Redwood challenged John Major for the Tory leadership and then party leader at just 36 after Tony Blair's landslide victory in 1997.
But while Mr Hague outwitted Mr Blair in the Commons, the Conservatives were still trounced by Labour again in 2001 in a result almost identical to 1997 and it seemed his top-flight political career was over until Mr Cameron persuaded him to return.
Nearly a decade after his comeback, in what looks like a purge of middle-aged men by the Prime Minister, at least Mr Hague's departure from the Foreign Office was his own decision.
And the Tories will benefit enormously from his skills in the Commons as Leader of the House and campaigning on the domestic front - particularly in the north of England - in the run-up to the next election.
Plenty of other middle-aged men have been ruthlessly sacked by David Cameron in what one of them called "the cull of all the innocents".
Downing Street listed seven ministers - all men - who had resigned. They were Kenneth Clarke, David Willetts, Alan Duncan, Hugh Robertson, Sir George Young, Andrew Robathan and Greg Barker.
But the No 10 list did not include the names of David Jones (Wales), Dominic Grieve (Attorney General), Damian Green (Policing) and Stephen Hammond (Transport). All were sacked. And all were shell-shocked by their dismissal.
As news of the sackings spread through Westminster, middle-aged male Tory MPs stood around in conspiratorial huddles of three or four, whispering and muttering.
For the moment, there is a lot of ill-feeling on the back benches.
But after the disappointed will come the appointed - promotion for younger, telegenic women MPs. The traditional parade up Downing Street and the smiles for the cameras.
Mr Cameron has got the bad news out of the way first. Labour has called his reshuffle a "massacre of the moderates". The PM will be hoping for more favourable publicity for day two of his changes.
But William Hague quitting is a serious blow. And if things go badly for the Tories at the next election, don't bet against Lord Hague of Richmond taking the Conservative Party conference by storm once again.