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Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Hague attacked over race record
William Hague
Mr Hague: Former aide says he is 'talking nonsense'
Conservative leader William Hague has been accused by a former aide of being extreme - and of failing to offer voters a vision for the future.

Ceri Evans, who defected to the Labour Party last week, accused Mr Hague of wasting his chance to move the party forward and of having no new ideas.


In the absence of anything better the Tories turn to prejudice of the worst kind

Ceri Evans
He suggested the Tories would play the "race card" and turn "to prejudice of the worst kind" during the election campaign - because they had "nothing better to say".

But shadow chancellor Michael Portillo defended the party's record on race - saying that attacks on immigrants had no place in the Conservative party.

Mr Evans, who was Mr Hague's presentation director in 1999 and head of Steve Norris's campaign to become London mayor, said he had had no choice but to leave the Tories.

Extreme views

Writing in the Sunday People newspaper, Mr Evans accused the Tory leader of turning in desperation to the "suicidal twilight zone" of extremism.

He accused Mr Hague of ignoring the issues that affect voters' lives.

"Instead of concentrating on vital issues that affect families like education, health care and jobs, Hague has ranted about the euro and asylum seekers."

He added: "He has failed to paint any future for Britain as he sees it except to describe it as a 'foreign land' at risk from a tide of immigrants.

Ceri Evans
Mr Evans joined Labour last week
"This is not just extreme. It is extreme nonsense."

Mr Evans said: "In the absence of anything better the Tories turn to prejudice of the worst kind."

He added: "Not until the Tories re-engage with the British people, who want something a bit more meaningful than thinly-veiled prejudice and a black hole of ideas, will they become relevant to this great nation's future."

The charges come after Mr Hague refused to remove the party whip from two Tory MPs who provoked outrage with their attacks on immigrants.

Record defended

But Mr Portillo defended the party's race record.

He said he was "appalled" by the verbal attacks on immigrants from Tory MPs John Townend and Christopher Gill.

But he insisted the issue had been "very effectively" dealt with.

"I am appalled by their remarks, they have no place in the Conservative Party," he told BBC News.

But he said Mr Gill had in effect resigned the whip and was campaigning for another party at the next election.

"I think William actually made his disapproval absolutely clear and we followed it up with very effective action," he said.

"Michael Ancram (Tory Party chairman) has written to every candidate in this election making it absolutely plain that this behaviour is unacceptable in Conservative candidates."

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See also:

28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague rebukes Tory MP over race
05 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Tory critics round on Hague
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