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Programme highlights Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 15:47 GMT
Hague woos traditional voters
The Conservatives are claiming to be the party of marriage
William Hague described marriages as a vital social bond
William Hague, for the second time in three years, has taken part in the launch of National Marriage Week.

He used the occasion to expound on the theme of the family, and to claim that his party has more policies designed to sustain the institution of marriage.

He also claimed that other parties were too cowardly to promote the family. and the public will respect politicians more if we at least help people who aspire to high standards


The public knows that politicians are not perfect...and the public will respect politicians more if we at least help people who aspire to high standards

William Hague

'They fear the reaction,' he said, 'when their own colleagues' relationships experience difficulties as, sadly, they sometimes do.'

The Tory leader described marriage as 'the heart of a healthy society', and 'a vital social bond.' He paid tribute to his own marriage, and that of his parents.

And he made commitments to some family-friendly policies - not just by changes to the tax-system, but through his proposed Office of Civil Society, announced yesterday, which 'will make sure that the importance of marriage and parenting is reflected in all decisions governments make.'

Republican themes?

These themes reflect Mr Hague's interest in the Republican Party.

Steve Morgan, foreign media co-ordinator on Al Gore's campaign team, was also a member of Labour's election team in 1997.

He told the World at One that Mr Hague's speech today 'could have been written by George W. Bush.'


The Conservative s are more skilled than the Republicans are with their campaigning tactics

Steve Morgan

Mr Morgan believes that Mr Bush successfully persuaded voters to accept that the economy was not a serious election issue: it was likely to thrive whoever was in the White House.

That left him free to concentrate on other matters. In the course of the campaign he instilled in voters' minds the sense that he represented morals, character and integrity in American politics.

These were ideas which might well work for Mr Hague, too.

Labour's response

The Social security Secretary, Alistair Darling, drew a different conclusion from Mr Hague's approach. He told the programme that the Tories were desperate to avoid talking about the economy, and were equally unwilling to expose their taxing and spending plans to public scrutiny.

He insisted that Labour's policy of helping families with children was of more use to the public than the Tory plans on marriage.

Tories attack on tax allowances

Answering those criticisms, the Shadow Cabinet Office Minister, Andrew Lansley, insisted that Conservative policies would make a real difference to families.

Hague paid tribute to his own marriage
Ffion and William Hague at last year's Marriage Week launch

He quoted in particular the plan to abolish income tax on savings, announced earlier this week. And he attacked Labour for ending the Married Couples Tax Allowance.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Steve Morgan
"William Hague is a much better politician...than George Bush"
Alistair Darling
"We recognize the importance of supporting families"
Andrew Lansley
"We are pledged...to reintroduce a recognition of marriage into the tax system"
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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