How can he be a leader of fashion?

Hague makeover: As John Major's successor hires clothing consultant, speculation begins on the look he will adopt

HE MAY be the youngest leader of his party since Pitt the Younger, and his wife may be slinky and glamorous, but to the unkind observer William Hague still looks likely to be the sort of man who owns a Corby trouser press.

To counter such unfair yet persistent criticism, Mr Hague is finally to succumb to an image makeover under the careful tutelage of John Morgan, an associate editor of GQ magazine and the editor of Debrett's New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners.

Yet news that the Tory leader is to hire Mr Morgan as a fashion consultant will come as no surprise - not to say some relief - to those in his party who believe he has all the pizzazz of a suburban accountant.

Ever since he first appeared at the Tory party conference as a precocious 16-year-old in a threadbare tweed jacket, the Hague dress sense has been something of an after-thought for this self-confessed style criminal. He joked at this year's party conference that his wife, Ffion, had improved his image, but it has now emerged that he has seen the merit of extra help from the man described as the "embodiment of masculine style".

Mr Morgan's own Debrett's guide gives a clue to the advice he will be proffering. "It is always best to aim for a more classic approach to dressing rather than being tempted by the drop-dead trendy," he writes presciently, considering Mr Hague's much-criticised use of smart-casual wear at the Notting Hill carnival.

It was, of course, the dreaded baseball cap, emblazoned with his name and worn the right way round on an ill- advised photo opportunity, that imprinted Mr Hague indelibly in the public imagination as a style-free zone.

In his bid to make the Tory party more cuddly and voter- friendly, Mr Hague has already taken himself and his colleagues off to weekend retreats where they hug each other's woolly jumpers. However, Mr Morgan is likely to advise that cardigans suit only Val Doonican, not the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition.

Believe it or not, William Hague is a young man, or at least in his middle youth. Jigsaw's new label, Bailey, was designed by 40-year-old Chris Bailey for men of precisely Mr Hague's age group. If Bailey had the opportunity to dress Mr Hague, who, he says, is, "not a bad looking guy," he says he would transform him with the preppie look. "I'd dress him in a buttoned- down, white poplin shirt, not buttoned to the top, worn over a white T- shirt with a black cashmere tank top so that when he took off his jacket he would still look interesting." To give him a sharp and serious edge, he would put Mr Hague in a pinstripe, single-breasted suit and finish it off with Prada's latest modern, moulded shoes.

Some advisers may suggest that Mr Hague makes a virtue of his nerdish image and copies Chris Evans by adding thick-rimmed specs to turn himself into an icon. He could certainly start with his hair, one fashion expert claimed, by keeping it a bit longer and dishevelled to give him a "human, approachable look".

Mr Hague could even take a leaf out of Tony Blair's book and hire a celebrity hairdresser and a hip tailor from New Savile Row, such as Ozwald Boateng or Timothy Everest.

Then again, if he were to adopt glittery glam-rock eyeshadow and eyeliner a la Michael Stipe of REM, he might even win some respect from the pink vote as well as those crucial under 25s.

Then again maybe not.

According to Ed Needham, editor of FHM, Mr Hague has already gone beyond the point of no return. "He should save his money," he advises. "I think it's going to take more than a makeover. He needs a personality change. I think he's doomed. He's so deeply old fogey. He's just beyond fashion."

The reason for his desire to improve his appearance may be simple. One Michael Xavier Portillo, a possible leadership challenger, has recently undergone his own makeover. To ditch his iron-man image, Mr Portillo has softened his razor-edge suits and flattened his hair. Whether Mr Morgan is advising Mr Hague's rival remains a matter of speculation.

Mr Hague launched a new Conservative Party crusade for the family last night with a call for the Government to use the tax system to encourage marriage. In a policy U-turn, Mr Hague admitted the former prime minister John Major was wrong to cut the married couple's tax allowance but claimed that Labour had made the situation worse by ignoring taxation altogether.

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