William Hague has got what is known in the business as an image problem. The problem is essentially that most of the public think of him as a complete prat.

Gritchka thinks a moment...

The deeper problem is that he is a complete prat. To cover this up, various solutions have been proposed by his image-conscious minders.

The rot set in when he was a schoolboy and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, and he got up and made a precocious speech at the Conservative Party Conference, and was applauded by the Transylvanian potentates, Chilean air force colonels, and certifiably mad Masters of Fox Hounds who make up the rank and file of the party. He thought he knew everything then and he has not progressed.

He is balding. Nothing wrong with this, of course. Nothing wrong with a bald know-it-all schoolboy.

He was Secretary of State for Wales under John Major, and wanted to learn Welsh. So he got his assistant, Ms Ffion Jenkins, to take him up onto a hillside and teach him. His idea of a good time with Ffion Jenkins was learning how to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Since becoming leader after Major quit (and no-one has ever managed to work out how that happened; my theory is that all the senior candidates were too busy arguing with each other to notice little William saying "moved", "seconded", "all in favour" to himself in one corner), he has adopted a number of images. He was photographed in a baseball cap with the word HAGUE written on it. He wore it front-to-front.

So much for the youth vote. He was photographed sliding down a water slide. Was he trying for the under-fives vote? He and Ffion were seen at the Notting Hill Carnival having fun. See, I'm the dour balding know-it-all leader of the Ship The Darkies Back Where They Came From Party but I love these steel bands and reggae, me.

He gave Ffion a token of his affection. A little pendant. It was a pound sign. Yup, it was. I suppose having "British Beef Means British Jobs" tattooed across her upper arm would have been too expensive, so he settled for a symbol of the "No Euros Here, Mate" campaign.

What other prattish things has he done? Let me think...

Action Man. He was pictured riding on a tank, if my memory doesn't deceive me. Okay, all politicians do this, and maybe I'm making this one up, but he still looked like a schoolboy and the Action Man phase came as a response to the non-success of the water-slide and frontways baseball cap phase.

Isn't he some kind of karate black belt? Or something* belt? They emphasized something of that nature for a while. Hague's been through so many unavailing makeovers that I'm forgetting them.

Recently he's been a jolly Jack-the-lad. He revealed that when he was a boy he would drink fourteen pints a day, travelling around doing deliveries for a brewer. Publicans queued up to confirm that one, of course. "No, can't recall him. Know-it-all balding little bugger with an annoying voice? I would have thrown him out if he'd ever shown his nose in my pub." -- And of course this did wonders for the drink driver and unemployed youth votes.

On the plus side, Hague can be funny. He's got a dry wit and a reasonably good sense of timing in parliamentary questions. So that's a big advantage. Remember how much better US Supreme Court decisions became when they replaced Rehnquist with Shari Lewis that year?

There will probably be a general election in June, which he will lose, after which he will be replaced as party leader by Michael Portillo, Ann Widdecombe, or a sock puppet.**

* Judo. Thank you, The Oolong Man.

** or, as it turned out, someone even more bald, uncharismatic, and right wing than he was, a Mr Iain Duncan Smith.