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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 7 October, 1998, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Sun prints Tories' obituary
This party has ceased to be, The Sun says
The Conservative Party has been pronounced dead and buried as a credible political force - by the newspaper which backed it through the Thatcher years.

In a front-page editorial, The Sun says the Tories have committed suicide with their stance on Europe.

The paper says: "Like Monty Python's parrot, it has fallen off its perch."

'Disloyalty, disunity and a death wish'

The verdict comes even though Mr Hague won a large endorsement from party members for his policy of not entering the single currency in the next parliament.

The Sun - which opposes scrapping the pound - highlights the intention of pro-Europeans to continue battling against the ballot result.

It says politicians like Michael Heseltine are displaying "disloyalty, disunity and a death wish".

john cleese
Original dead parrot man, John Cleese
In a black-bordered mock obituary, the paper reports the death of the Conservative Party, citing "suicide" as the suspected cause.

It reads: "The Conservative and Unionist Party, once the most successful fighting force in world politics, has died after a long illness. It was 166."

The Sun recalls its backing of Lady Thatcher during her premiership from 1979 to 1990, and its key role in helping the Tories to win the 1992 election, supporting John Major against Neil Kinnock.

The paper switched sides two months before the last general election to throw its weight behind Tony Blair and New Labour.

Dismissing the claim

But the Conservatives have dismissed the Sun's claim that their party is no longer credible.

A party spokesman said: "The ballot on the single currency has shown that the Conservative Party is alive and has a settled will on this crucial issue.

"We are determined to show that a reformed party with a clear place in Europe can fight and win."

The spokesman also emphasised that the currency vote was the most successful ballot ever in the party's history and had gained it 10,000 extra members.

Conservative membership was rising as the Labour Party's was going down, he added.

guardian
Guardian/ICM poll provides no comfort for the Tories
The Sun's blow will not be softened by a Guardian/ICM survey published the same day.

After a poll in The Observer on Sunday showed that only 21 percent of voters can name a single member of Mr Hague's team, the Guardian's survey rubs salt in the Tories wounds, showing that support for them has not grown.

The monthly poll reveals the Tories are still languishing on 29% support - 2% below their disastrous 1997 general election rating.

They are now even further behind Labour, which now has 51% - representing a 3% rise on last month.

The Liberal Democrats have 15% support - down 2% - says the poll, published in Tuesday's Guardian.

Public perception is the Pitts

Only one in five voters thinks Mr Hague is the best man to be Tory leader.

Ken Clarke gets the backing of 17% of those who took part in the survey, while Chris Patten gets 15%, and Michael Heseltine draws 13%.

Even among Tory voters, Mr Hague was supported as leader by less than a third, with 29%.

Another survey in The Daily Telegraph provides even more dismal reading for the Conservatives.

It suggests around a fifth of voters think William Pitt is a member of the shadow cabinet. This is about the same number as those who recognised Francis Maude, the treasury spokesman, as a member.

The people surveyed were not asked which William Pitt they had in mind, but in either case they had not been following Mr Hague's frontbench closely.

William Pitt the Elder left office in 1786, while his son, William Pitt the Younger, died just 20 years later.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News
Guto Harri from The World at One tests delegates on their recognition of senior party figures
BBC News
Political correspondent Norman Smith: "The party seems to be suffering something of an identity crisis"
See also:

04 Oct 98 | Politics
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