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Hague steps down as UK foreign secretary

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced he is standing down from his post to serve as leader of the House of Commons.

Tonight I am standing down as Foreign Secretary after 4 years to serve as Leader of the House of Commons

— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) July 14, 2014

He has announced that he will not stand as an MP in the May 2015 general election. “After 26 years as an MP, the time will be right for me to move on,” Hague said.

Role as Leader of the House means I will finish in politics as I began – speaking in Parliament and campaigning among the voters

— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) July 14, 2014

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would like to pay an enormous tribute to Hague, adding that he will remain the PM's de facto political deputy and “play a key campaigning role and be leader of the House of Commons.”

1/2 I'd like to pay an enormous tribute to @WilliamJHague who is standing down as an MP at the next election.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) July 14, 2014

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond will most likely become the new foreign secretary according to multiple sources, including Sky News and the Guardian.

Hague's departure comes as a surprise to most, who expected the foreign secretary to remain at his post until the election. However, a few expected him to take on further political roles. The outgoing minister confirmed as much during his comments on Monday.

"By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the cabinet. In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the prime minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election," he said.

Politically, the cabinet reshuffle is thought to be linked with Cameron's desire to make more room for women and younger men - which is now possible through the departure of a number of male ministers, including Universities Minister David Willetts, Attorney General Dominic Grieve, and Policing Minister Damian Green.

Promotions as a result of the latest reshuffle are expected on Tuesday in the run-up to elections next May. The Conservatives are currently lagging behind the opposition Labour party in opinion polls by three to seven percentage points.

Still, not every Tory member is sold on the latest efforts to reform the party's largely staid image. "This really is the worst form of tokenistic gesture politics," one senior figure said, according to the Guardian.

The cabinet shuffle is "the biggest upheaval in David Cameron's government" since assuming power in 2010, according to Sky political editor Adam Boulton.

"He is clearly cutting out a lot of - as people are saying - 'pale, male and stale' ministers," he said.

"A lot of them frankly are thought to be doing quite good jobs in their ministerial positions," added Boulton.