Thoughts of Hague still seem vague

27th June 1997 at 01:00
William Hague, the first leader of the Conservative party to have attended a comprehensive, came to the public's attention as a 16-year-old schoolboy at the party's annual conference.

He earned Mrs Thatcher's affection with a Radical Right speech that talked of rolling back the state and "large and progressive cuts in public spending". The pictures of him resplendent in a deeply unfashionable tweed jacket may haunt him forever. But apparently they were not enough to have him barred from the London-based Social, Welsh and Sexy club (its acronym, SWS, means "Kiss" in Welsh), to which he was introduced by his glamorous fiancee, Ffion Jenkins.

He can thank his training in his school's debating society for the precocious poise and confidence he showed when making his high-profile political debut. After attending the local primary he won a boarding scholarship to Ripon Grammar, but left after a term because he hated it. Instead he went to Wath upon Dearne, which was selective until his second year when it became comprehensive. He then went on get a first-class degree in PPE at Oxford (Magdalen). Despite presiding over Welsh schools in his role as secretary of state for the principality, Mr Hague's thoughts on education remain obscure. However, one trawl of his words of wisdom includes this quote from last year: "If I had kids, I'd send them to the local comprehensive. People who go private are wasting their money."

He has also talked about breaking down the barriers between state and private education. But whether he would go as far as Alan Duncan, his former flatmate and parliamentary political secretary, who said education should be privatised, remains to be seen.

David Winfield, secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers in Wales, said that although Mr Hague was commended for making an effort in Wales, by his many visits and learning the language, he did nothing for schools. "He followed the party line from England entirely. We have seen a dramatic difference already since Peter Hain has taken over. He has pushed things forwards ahead of the rest of the UK," he said.

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