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Thursday, October 8, 1998 Published at 02:47 GMT 03:47 UK

Hague rallies troops for 'huge task'

William Hague: Jobs crisis ahead

To see and hear William Hague's conference speech click here from 15.30 BST (14.30 GMT).
Nick Assinder reports from Bournemouth:

Tory leader William Hague is planning a "realistic" end-of-conference speech in which he will confess he has failed to enthuse the voters.

BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley on William Hague's attempt to stir his troops
In his most important speech since being elected leader after the Tories' general election pounding, he will tell delegates "the hostility on the doorsteps has gone".

But he will also admit that the party has a huge task ahead of it to create any enthusiasm among voters.

He will call on the government to create a jobs crisis package immediately, with the abandonment or postponement of the minimum wage and statutory union recognition.

And he will map out plans for a radical policy on the constitution which could see the creation of an English parliament to echo the new assemblies in Scotland and Wales.

Man of the people

Mr Hague will attack what he calls the government's "betrayal" of dropping welfare reform and suggest it is the Tories who are the party of compassion and fairness.

He will also attempt to put the row over Europe finally behind him by talking only about the reforms he wants to see within the EU, such as tackling the jobs crisis.

And he will claim that next year's local, European and devolution elections will give the Tories a solid bedrock on which to build their recovery.

Mr Hague will again seek to paint himself as a man of the people by referring to his Yorkshire, comprehensive school upbringing.

Labour to blame

In a key section of his speech, he will tear into Labour over the looming economic crisis: "The only thing Labour ministers know about the economic downturn is that they're not to blame.

"In July, Gordon Brown announced his spending spree and his forecasts for the economy. We all knew those forecasts were wrong. Most economists knew they were wrong. Francis Maude told the chancellor they were wrong.

"I asked Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Question Time whether he accepted that the forecasts were wrong. 'No' he said, with supreme complacency.

"This week we discover they are completely wrong. Grim, but wholly predictable news for families and businesses throughout the country.

"It's clear to everyone now that Labour has been living in a dream world. This week they got a reality check.

"What we have seen in the last year and a half amounts to a major reversal of the economic policy of the last government, the policy which built the golden legacy which this government is squandering.

'Mock concern'

"We are facing a jobs crisis in this country. The people who are paying the price for that reversal are the thousands of people who have already lost their jobs and the hundreds and thousands of people who could lose their jobs unless this government gets its economic policies right.

"No amount of scripted sympathy and mock concern from the government is going to lessen the impact on families around Britain this autumn.

"What we need is an emergency jobs crisis package. And I today propose one to the prime minister.

"We oppose the minimum wage because it will price people out of work. If the government is not going to abandon it, then they should at least consider delaying its introduction until the jobs crisis is over.

"We oppose statutory union recognition because it will open the door to strikes and bankruptcies. We're still at the White Paper stage. If the government is not going to scrap them, then they should at least consider not bringing them before Parliament until the jobs crisis is over.

Demand for statement

"We believe it was a total betrayal by the government to abandon real welfare reform. The chancellor's proposed spending plans mean that welfare bills will soar, interest rates will be higher than they should be and the pound will be higher than it could be.

"The government should at least consider drawing up new plans that tackle welfare spending and lessen the impact of the jobs crisis.

"What I am proposing is a practical, do-able, implementable, sensible jobs crisis package.

"It is a package this government can introduce now to protect British jobs," he will say.

He will also demand an emergency Commons statement on the issue from Gordon Brown when MPs return from their summer break later this month.

"If he doesn't introduce such a package, let's be absolutely clear about one thing - he will be responsible for yet more lost jobs and factory closures.

"Dithering as jobs are destroyed. That's what happens when you believe in everything and believe in nothing."

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