William Hague’s formidable skills as an orator led to him being dubbed “the David Beckham of toasting” by Hillary Clinton. Since departing the Commons, the former foreign secretary’s verbal flourishes are now helping him to build earnings to match the title.
Freed from the constraints of high office, Lord Hague of Richmond carried out 54 speaking engagements last year, a rhetorical odyssey that earned him £1.3 million and saw him clock up enough air miles to take him more than twice round the world. A series of other directorships, advisory posts and writing jobs took his potential earnings to almost £2 million in 2016.
It is his packed speaking schedule that drove his earnings last year. His speeches are organised through the JLA agency, which rates him as an “AA” speaker — the highest cost band with a price per speech of over £25,000. Lord Hague, 55, even made more than one speech a day on three occasions. His engagements have included a cybersecurity conference and compering a business awards show.
The butt of his jokes is often the current foreign secretary. At the National Business Awards Lord Hague poked fun at Boris Johnson for describing Brexit as a “titanic success”.
More recently he has taken aim at Donald Trump. At the WhatHouse? awards he said the problem with political jokes was that “they have started to get elected”. He even read a mock letter from the president, stating: “I believe in the special relationship with your country — which is just as well, as I’ve already pissed off most of the others.”
Corporate clients have paid for his thoughts on Brexit. At a BNP Paribas conference he advised companies to start lobbying the government on tax and cutting red tape.
“Amidst all the disadvantages, find the advantages and start communicating rapidly with government about what are the regulations that can now be changed that make it easier to do business in Britain,” he said. “There might be ten years of rewriting laws and doing new regulations. Businesses need to get in on that very quickly.”
Those who have heard his speeches describe them as entertaining and frank. They tend to last for about 15 minutes and are followed by lengthy Q&A sessions.
Other posts have helped to boost his income. Industry sources said he would earn about £100,000 for chairing an advisory group for the law firm Linklaters and at least £200,000 for his role as senior adviser to the corporate advisory company Teneo Holdings.
He also has a fortnightly column contract for The Daily Telegraph that is thought to run into six figures and is the director of Intercontinental Exchange, which owns exchanges and clearing houses for financial and commodity markets. He earned £191,000 from the post in 2015. His earnings are set to increase further this year after he took an advisory role with Citigroup.
Lord Hague and his wife Ffion, 48, bought Cyfronydd Hall, a ten-bedroom home in Powys, Wales, in 2015. On sale for £2.5 million, it in fact went for £1.75 million.
A spokesman did not comment on Lord Hague’s earnings but said his advice on lobbying the government over tax and regulation before Brexit was “a commonsense observation”.
- “The trouble now with political jokes is that they have started to get elected. This makes it a little more difficult.”
- “I saw a bumper sticker just before the American election that said: ‘Cheer up, only one of them can win’.”
- “When I first went to campaign for Boris [Johnson] in North Wales, where he was a candidate, I said: ‘How are you getting on, Boris?’ He said: ‘It’s going to be huge’ . . . and the Labour majority was huge in that particular election.”
- “We have had foreign secretaries in bigger trouble. One of my predecessors was George Brown. He loved a drink. He thought you didn’t count as drunk if you could lie on the floor without having to hold on to it at the same time.”