William the conqueror

10.10.02: THE YOUNGEST British prime minister for two centuries pulled off a stunning election victory yesterday and immediately declared war on Europe.

Standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street with his wife, Ffion, and their baby daughter, Margaret, an ebullient William Hague, 41, announced: "The British way is the right way, and it is the way I intend to govern this country."

He pledged to keep Britain outside the single currency, and said he would seek to renegotiate other aspects of EU membership, strengthening relations with the Commonwealth and the US.

Hague's narrow majority, of just 10, has led many to speculate that he would go to the country again within months, to strengthen his position.

The whirlwind series of events that saw the Tories come to power began in April, with the referendum on the European single currency. Although it had strong support from the business community, the public remained unconvinced, 52% voting against. The effect was equivalent to the blow to the Major government in 1992, when sterling was forced out of the European exchange rate mechanism.

After losing a series of parliamentary votes, and amid growing opposition to his leadership within the Labour Party, Tony Blair was forced to call another general election. DS