UK Politics

Margaret Thatcher vetoed William Hague Treasury job

Margaret Thatcher and William Hague in 1977
Image caption William Hague had wowed the Conservative annual conference in 1977

Margaret Thatcher personally vetoed plans to give William Hague a job as a Treasury adviser in 1983, official documents show.

The prime minister dismissed as a "gimmick" attempts to employ the 21-year-old based on the famous speech he had given to the Conservative Party conference at the age of 16.

Giving him a job could prove an "embarrassment", Mrs Thatcher added.

A source close to Mr Hague, now foreign secretary, said she had been "right".

Mr Hague first came to public prominence when, as a schoolboy, he delivered a thumping speech decrying the failings of the Labour government and the benefits of the free market.

Mrs Thatcher had her photograph taken with him but, five years later, was less impressed when the 21-year-old, a recent Oxford graduate, tried to become a special adviser to Chancellor Geoffrey Howe.

'Promising'

No 10 Downing Street received a letter from senior Treasury adviser John Kerr, dated 17 March 1983, saying: "The Prime Minister will I am sure remember his 1977 Party Conference speech as a 16 year old schoolboy!"

This, however, failed to impress.

Mrs Thatcher scrawled across the top of the letter in thick black ink : "No [triple underlined] - this is a gimmick and would be deeply resented by many who have financial-economic experience."

She endorsed the assessment of her private secretary Robin Butler, who noted: "Promising though William Hague is, it is a bit difficult to see what a 21-year-old will contribute as a special adviser in the Treasury."

In his formal reply to Mr Kerr, Mr Butler wrote: "The Prime Minister said that, however promising Mr Hague is, the appointment of someone so young and with so little experience would be an embarrassment to the Government and would be resented by more experienced people in the Conservative Research Department.

"She also had reservations about the degree of access to Treasury policy papers which appointment as a Special Adviser would give Mr Hague.

"She suggested that, if the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary wanted Mr Hague to help with speeches, he should be employed by the Conservative Research Department or some other private sources."

But with news having already leaked that Mr Hague was going to work at the Treasury, Mrs Thatcher's press secretary, Bernard Ingham, briefed journalists that the reports were "incorrect".

After the documents were released, a source close to Mr Hague - who was Tory leader from 1997 to 2001 - said: "The foreign secretary thinks that Margaret Thatcher was, as usual, right."

The source added: "He is still very proud that Margaret Thatcher gave him her backing when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative Party 14 years later."

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