UK Foreign Minister William Hague Stepping Down

LONDON (AP) -

Britain’s high-profile foreign minister, William Hague, is leaving his job, the government said Monday — a surprise announcement that precedes a major shakeup of the Conservative-led administration.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said Hague, who has been Britain’s most visible statesman on international crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, was moving to the post of leader of the House of Commons and will quit national politics next year.

Cameron said Hague would be “my de facto political deputy in the run-up to the election” in May 2015 and help lead the campaign for a Conservative majority in Parliament.

Cameron is due to announce a major Cabinet shuffle on Tuesday, but news of Hague’s departure came as a surprise to many.

Hague, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1989, also said he would leave Parliament at the next election.

“After the general election I will return to my writing, while still giving very active support to the Conservative Party and campaigning on international causes I believe in,” Hague said in a statement.

Hague is just 53, but he is wrapping up a political career that began in the 1970s. He first came to national attention as a precocious 16-year-old, when he made a speech at a Conservative convention.