Another comic week in the life of the leader of Her Majesty's opposition

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IT'S AUGUST, the Prime Minister is away and the nation needs cheering up. Yes, the William Hague daft-photo-opportunity season is with us once more.

In yet another bid to shake off the cruel perception that he is a man with less personality than a cucumber, the Tory leader crammed in a series of media appearances this week that proved beyond doubt that he's the country's most prolific wannabe comedian.

Undeterred by less-than rave reviews for his previous appearances front of camera, Mr Hague has staged a mini-publicity blitz aimed at reminding us exactly who he is. The gaffable Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition popped up at a fish and chip shop in Cardiff, unveiled a new bust of himself in London and indulged in a spot of light interviewing on the Des O'Connor Show last night.

Matching last year's late-summer efforts, in which he memorably sported a baseball cap on a theme park waterslide (right way round and with HAGUE in capital letters on the front) was always going to be difficult, but he put up a good show. Attempting to show that anything the Prime Minister can do, he can do "bedder", Mr Hague wowed Des with weak jokes, a nervy smile and a nice line in blokeish self-deprecation.

Just seven weeks after Tony Blair showed off his Estuary English skills, the 37-year-old delivered string of quips about his balding pate, his marriage and his judo sparring with Sebastian Coe. He had the studio audience giggling with tales of how Madame Tussaud's worked on his waxwork dummy: "They try to find enough hair ... I think they had some left over in my case."

Bidding to challenge his reputation as Britain's youngest fogey, he also had them rolling in the aisles with accounts of how fame had marred his visits to the cinema. "Ffion and I sit down and all the crisps stop rustling, all the popcorn stops being munched. Then we hear people say things like: `He's eating a Kit Kat ,' or: `Do you think he's going to hold her hand?'," he said.

The subject of his thinning hair was also cause for more Hague hilarity earlier in the day when he unveiled a new statue of himself at Tory Central Office. Posing with the bronze bust, itself a curious hybrid of Bobby Charlton and erstwhile leadership contender Peter Lilley, he appeared to give it a Maori kiss before joking: "My brother here's got more hair than me, and a better hairstyle.

"I've never gazed into my eyes before...if ever I have to miss Question Time, I could send him along instead," he told an assembled gathering of charity chiefs who had donated the sculpture. Being charitable types, the good people of the Exilarch's Foundation laughed convincingly at their host's gags.

A copy of the bust will go on sale to help Children in Need later this year, though Mr Hague refused to joke about exactly how much money it might raise.

The good news, however, for connoisseurs of the Tory leader's stand-up routines, is that he won't be making a return visit to Notting Hill carnival this year. Scenes of Mr Hague behaving like a cheesy policeman attempting to mingle with young people will not be repeated as the Hagues leave for their summer holiday in Arizona at the weekend.

It is not known if the Tory spin doctors have arranged any jolly photo- ops of the pair riding on horseback. Or if young William will appear on the Jay Leno show.