Ann Widdecombe described William Hague’s much-praised biography of the 18th-century British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger as a study of “a witty, youthful, and ambitious politician by a witty, youthful, and ambitious politician.” There are certainly similarities between Pitt, the youngest ever prime minister, at 24, and Hague, the youngest ever leader of the Conservative Party, at 36, in 1997. In each we see a precocious teenage orator who becomes a consummate Commons performer, masterly at the dispatch box, and the occupant of the highest offices of state.
Pitt was known as the Cicero of his day, but no one gets to be that in modern politics. While carrying the aura of those older bigger politicians of an earlier age, Hague’s style is thoroughly modern, combining wry wit and good grace, the self-depreciatory and the statesmanlike cheek by jowl. He lacks Pitt’s monomaniacal zeal, preferring to cultivate a hinterland that sustains him as an author, not just a politician (a fine study of William Wilberforce followed the biography of Pitt).