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banner Friday, 6 October, 2000, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Hague speech: how the papers see it
William Hague
Hague's speech met with mixed response
William Hague's conference speech on Thursday was meant to show that the Conservatives are now ready for government.

But how well was he received by that voice of the people, the British press?

Normally, the UK papers are predictably partisan, with the at least half of them tending to support the Tories.

He has identified the mind-set of a vast constituency of voters disaffected by New Labour's out-of-touch arrogance...the Tories [are] more united and more formidable than at any time in years

Daily Mail
But Mr Hague will draw comfort from the reaction in the Daily Mail and, to a lesser degree the Daily Telegraph, there has been a lack of real enthusiasm for his performance in the press.

Of course, it has not helped the Tory leader that on the day of his speech the Yugoslavian people decided to remove their leader in a revolution, nudging Mr Hague from many front pages.

Tabloids sit on the fence

The Sun, Britain's best selling tabloid, usually comes out firmly in favour of one side or the other when an election is called.

(Mr Hague) flopped in front of his fading faithful

Daily Mirror
But this time, the Rupert Murdoch-owned red top is happy to hedge its bets after famously switching from the Tories to Labour at the 1997 election.

Its editorial says simply that if Mr Hague is right to assert that Tony Blair's government had lost the confidence of the electorate then New Labour would lose the election, if not next time then the time after.

But it adds: "Whether Mr Hague was right, of course, is a decision for the millions of people that will vote.

"It is not a decision for The Sun," it humbly remarks.

The Sun's main rival The Mirror does not think much of the Tory leader's performance - but then it usually sides with Labour.

In its "voice of the Mirror" section it only devotes a couple of paragraph's to the speech.

It said that Mr Hague thought he was finally on his way to becoming prime minister but he "flopped in front of his fading faithful".

"Yesterday William Hague consigned himself to a footnote in British political history," the editorial reads.

Middle market split

The middle market Daily Express and Daily Mail have mixed reactions to the Tory leader's efforts.

The avowedly Conservative Mail gushed that "the tone of Mr Hague's speech ... was brilliantly pitched".

"He has identified the mind-set of a vast constituency of voters disaffected by New Labour's out-of-touch arrogance...the Tories [are] more united and more formidable than at any time in years," it said.

But the ex-Tory turned New Labour Daily Express said that Mr Hague's speech had all the appeal "of a pub bore".

"Like the man who props up every bar; the Conservative leader complained about everything but had a solution for nothing."

Traditionally the Tories have been able to look to the rightwing Daily Telegraph for enthusiastic support.

And although the Telegraph asserted that more British people would wake up on Friday morning after the speech wanting to vote Tory it still cast doubt on whether enough would to put Mr Hague into Number 10.

"One could almost hear Mr Hague thinking, as he spoke "how many, after the last experience of Conservative government, are ready to trust us again,"" the leader column read.

The left-of-centre Guardian focused on what it sees as the incompatibility of shadow chancellor Michael Portillo's vision of an inclusive modern Tory party and shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe's "hard-faced outfit".

"The leader did his best to combine the two approaches, but he nudged closer toward the Widdecombe vision."

It added that perhaps he needed to do that to keep the Tories with him but it was likely to turn off many of those who voted Labour in 1997.

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See also:

05 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Tories are ready for power - Hague
05 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Tory drugs row continues
02 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague promises inner-city revival
18 Sep 00 | Liberal Democrats
Kennedy targets Tories
26 Sep 00 | Labour
Blair pledges to make amends
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