BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"The pressure is mounting on Labour to accept"
 real 56k

Sunday, 14 January, 2001, 22:55 GMT
Hague's TV challenge to Blair
William Hague interviewed by David Frost, 14 Jan
William Hague: "You must never be put off by polls"
Conservative leader William Hague has challenged the Prime Minister to take part in a series of live televised debates during the general election.

Mr Hague said he had accepted proposals put forward by ITV and the BBC, while Labour said it was considering a format from another broadcaster.

The Tory leader has insisted his party can win the forthcoming general election despite the latest run of opinion poll findings.

He was speaking after a Mori poll for The Sunday Telegraph suggested Labour had a 21% lead over the Tories, while an NOP survey for The Sunday Times put the gap at 15%.

'There for the taking'

Interviewed on BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Hague dismissed the Mori poll figures saying the next election, widely expected to be held on 3 May, was "there for the taking".

Responding to the TV challenge, a Labour Party spokesman said: "In principle we're in favour of debates but as we know from past experience there can be practical problems with organising these things."

The spokesman added: "We have a debate every week in the House of Commons and we can see from today that William Hague has nothing to say about the issues."

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor said a live debate would be a good forum to discuss the parties' policies.

Election hopes

Mr Hague went on to tell Breakfast with Frost: "People are fed up with being let down by the Labour Party, they want to know what the alternative is, they want to hear that over the coming months, and they are going to hear it."

Elections are decided by real people thinking in their own minds about how to vote

William Hague

He acknowledged the latest polls were not in the Tories' favour but said: "You must never be put off by opinion polls.

"Elections are decided by real people thinking in their own minds about how to vote on election day, they are not decided by how pollsters tell them to vote."

The polls published on Sunday were not all good news for Labour.

The figures in the Telegraph suggested voter satisfaction with public services had declined under the Labour government, with the NHS faring particularly badly.

'War on want' unveiled

Elsewhere, the government revealed it was launching a new drive to improve opportunities and help raise living standards for people trapped in some of the UK's most deprived areas.

Hundreds of areas suffering a complex combination of social problems will be targeted. Details are due to be unveiled by Tony Blair on Monday.

Mo Mowlam
Mo Mowlam: Drive to close poverty gap
Writing in The News of the World, Cabinet Office Minister Mo Mowlam explained the broad philosophy behind what she described as a "new drive to close the poverty gap".

"I recognise - as does everyone in this government - that there are still too many communities, too many families, not sharing in our rising prosperity," she said.

"Communities where decent families struggle daily against a host of deep-rooted and interlinked problems.

"It is a concerted effort to end the scandal where people lose out just because of where they live," wrote Ms Mowlam.


The Mori poll for the Telegraph found that for the first time, more people were unhappy than happy with the health service.

In March 1998, 72% were satisfied with the NHS and only 18% dissatisfied. Only 44% are satisfied while 46% are currently dissatisfied.

But the poll found that on voting intentions, 52% of those questioned said they would choose Labour, 31% Conservative and 11% Liberal Democrat.

On the NHS, most of those polled believe hospitals are dirtier and patients have to wait longer for treatment.

Only 24% of those questioned thought standards of treatment had improved - while 49% thought nothing had changed and 20% think standards were worse.

Dissatisfaction with policing is highest since pollsters first asked the question 20 years ago.

Overall discontent

On education, people were evenly divided but 37% of Labour voters were dissatisfied, while 34% were satisfied.

Those polled believed that of its five 1997 pledges, Mr Blair had kept just one - not to raise income tax.

Only 16% of respondents thought Mr Hague would improve public services while twice as many believed he would make them worse.

The Sunday Times' NOP poll, which interviewed a weighted sample of 1,232 adults on Thursday and Friday last week, put Labour on 48% of the vote, the Conservatives on 33% and the Liberal Democrats on 14%.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

12 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour pledge failure defended
10 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Boost for inner cities
02 Oct 00 | Conservatives
Hague promises inner-city revival
09 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Election battle lines drawn
16 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Blair and Hague set for TV clash
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories