Youth has triumphed over experience in the election of William Hague as Britain's new Conservative Party leader. The Tories have chosen their youngest leader for 200 years and arguably have at their head now a man with the capabilities and intellectual clout to take on Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. The unlikely deal that rival candidate Kenneth Clarke, the former chancellor, had patched together with his ideological opponent John Redwood failed to deliver the promised support. Mr Hague won with 92 Tory MP votes to 70. But although the 36-year-old former Welsh Secretary may be able to create a united shadow cabinet, the big question is whether he can create the united party required if the Tories are to have any chance of winning the next general election. The leadership battle had not been gentlemanly, there was name calling, patronising comments about Mr Hague's modest years and a good deal of bitterness. But then if there had to be a period of convulsion following the biggest electoral defeat in recent history it was perhaps better to get it over with quickly. Pro-European Mr Clarke's unholy alliance with Euro-sceptic John Redwood seemed in the end to repulse more people than it attracted. Some senior figures were even threatening another contest in the near future should the Clarke-Redwood team have won. In Hong Kong terms it would have been like Allen Lee and Martin Lee deciding to form a party together - nobody would believe it. Nonetheless Mr Hague's clear victory was a final surprise in a contest which had never gone according to predictions over each of its three rounds. It is also a major factor in his favour. During the final hours up to the count on Thursday afternoon, many thought the result would be much closer, itself a recipe for continued in-fighting. Mr Hague comes from a middle-class Yorkshire family - his father was a soft drinks manufacturer. He first impressed when he addressed the Tory Party conference at the age of 16 calling on an applauding Margaret Thatcher to go for minimal government. At Oxford University he gained a first degree in politics, philosophy and economics and was president of the student union. In 1989 he won the seat of Richmond, North Yorkshire, in a by-election. He was just 27 then, the youngest Tory MP. Ironically it was the last by-election the party won. A year later he was involved in John Major's successful leadership bid and his reward was two junior positions in government then two years ago his appointment as Welsh Secretary, a cabinet post. It was while working at the Welsh Office that he met his fiancee Ffion, a senior civil servant who taught him Welsh. Many would see him as a Thatcherite and he won Baroness Thatcher's 11th-hour endorsement of his leadership candidacy. Others say he will be a compromise leader in the John Major mould. Mr Hague himself, hardly surprisingly, rejects all such labels - and says he can live with the accusations that he is too young to be a successful leader. 'I don't define myself as being a version of anyone,' he said. 'I am not a Margaret Thatcher mark II; I am not a John Major mark II. I am William Hague mark I.' Immediately upon election Mr Hague said he would offer Mr Clarke a senior position in his shadow cabinet. But this first gesture towards unity failed and within minutes of making his statement the former chancellor said he would not serve under Mr Hague. The young leader has made it clear he would brook no dissent within his shadow cabinet - and that its members would have to accept his line of ruling out Britain entering a single European currency for 10 years at least. But then his critics would say that it is often difficult to see what the Hague line is - on a single European currency he has changed his stance at least three times within the past three weeks. 'I see it as my job not only to lead the party but to heal its divisions,' he said. 'I owe it to every member of the party to make sure that I extend the hand of friendship and co-operation to all members of the party. I am going to bring the party together and take it back on the road to unity, to confidence and back to power and the whole Conservative Party is going to work together to achieve that objective.' On paper Mr Hague should be able to deliver the unity he believes in. He may lack experience and it may be difficult to see where he stands on some issues but many party elders see him as extremely shrewd and calculating. The alternative under the Clarke-Redwood leadership might have been a shadow cabinet so wide in its political make-up that it would have been riddled with disunity. Mr Clarke had made clear, for instance, that Mr Redwood would have been his shadow chancellor. How the anti-monetary union Mr Redwood could have worked alongside a team led by a pro-monetary union leader was anyone's guess. It is expected that Mr Redwood will certainly keep a lower profile now. His role as king-maker to Mr Clarke ultimately failed and he will be seen as little more than a mischief maker if he continues to question policy. It was Mr Redwood who created so much damage and disarray by his constant attacks on the cabinet of John Major over Europe. Yesterday there were many brave words about 'new unity' but with Labour having stolen the middle ground of British politics many Tory MPs are still genuinely pessimistic about the party's future. The last time the Tories lost an election as badly as last month was in 1945. Then, they managed to get back in office at the next general election. But some would compare the Tories' plight now to that of the Labour Party which was torn apart by factionalism in the early 1980s. It was out of office for 18 years. Some fear it could even go the way of the Liberals - who never regained ground following their big split in the 1920s. Mr Hague's tasks are to rebuild the party machine, devastated by the divisions of recent years and win back voters. He must stem the steep decline in the party's membership and involve a younger generation in an organisation increasingly run by pensioners. Robin Hodgson, chairman of the voluntary party in the country said there were three priorities for the new leader. 'First of all he must be someone who unites the party, secondly he must be someone who dominates the floor of the House of Commons and lands some punches on Labour, and thirdly he must be someone who will continue the trend of opening up the party; make it more inclusive and welcoming. 'That is the way we will bring in more people, particularly young people, to help us begin the grand programme of reconstruction.' Former Tory deputy chairman Lord Archer believes that if the party cannot unite now the alternative is catastrophe. 'The leadership has to get one almighty big grip because if it doesn't we are going to be in the wilderness for many years,' he said. 'If we have the word division on the lips of the British people in four years' time and it is concerning the Conservative Party we will lose perhaps by even more than 179 [Labour's majority]. So get behind the new leader, get behind the policy or get out.'