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Britain's Conservative Party leader William Hague greets supporters as he arrives at the party's headquarters in London. - Gulf News Archives Image Credit:

1997 William Hague became the youngest leader of Britain’s Conservative party in nearly 200 years when he defeated ex-finance minister Kenneth Clarke by a surprisingly wide margin. In a ballot of the Conservatives’ 164 surviving members of parliament, Hague, won 92 votes against 70 for Clarke. Two MPs abstained or spoiled their ballot papers. Hague, 36, succeeds former prime minister John Major, who announced his decision to step down as leader within hours of the Conservatives’ crushing defeat in the election at the hands of Tony Blair’s Labour party. A beaming Hague, Welsh Secretary for two years before the election, emerged from the House of Commons to proclaim that his first task was to unite a party whose deep divisions over Europe were magnified by the leadership campaign. “I see it as my job not only to lead the party but to heal its divisions. I owe it to every member of the party to make sure that I extend the hand of friendship and cooperation to all members of the party,” Hague said.

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