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Tuesday, January 19, 1999 Published at 21:42 GMT

UK Politics

Blair 'holding a dagger to heart of Britishness'

William Hague embraces a "brassy Britain"

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

Tory leader William Hague has warned that Tony Blair's "third way" is undermining the most fundamental aspects of British life.

The BBC's Robin Oakley: He warned that European integration had reached danger point
In a speech aimed at boosting his troubled leadership, he set out an alternative "British way" for the new millennium.

Mr Hague told the right-wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Studies, that the very essence of Britishness is being attacked.

Adding that the government's constitutional changes will threaten to turn people into "strangers in their own land".

William Hague tells BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have a choice"
He also accused the prime minister of "holding a dagger at the heart of what it is to be British" which according to Mr Hague means being, "urban, ambitious, sporty, fashion-conscious, multi-ethnic, brassy, self-confident and international".

The speech comes just two days after Mr Blair re-launched New Labour with a claim that Britain was now a middle class nation.

Confidence boost

Despite the government's "Black Christmas", the Tory leader has failed to seriously dent Labour's opinion poll lead and desperately needs to reassert his authority and give his backbenchers a confidence boost.

In words that echoed is successful conference speech last autumn, Mr Hague said: "The prime minister is in effect holding a dagger to the heart of what it is to be British. If he is left to carry on unchecked, he will drive it right through that heart.

"People will wake up and find themselves living in what feels to be a different country.

"People did not elect a Labour government because they wanted to make Britain into a foreign country. But the impact of the Blair agenda will make people strangers in their own land - with an alien voting system and Parliament and an over-mighty state.

"This is why the third way is a threat to the British way. New Labour is a threat to our Britishness, and our prime minister is a threat to Britain."

The Tory leader focused on devolution in Wales and Scotland and planned changes to the voting system and the House of Lords as major threats to the national way of life.

He also said that Mr Blair's policies on education, the family, health, welfare and Europe are all contributing to destroy "distinctive British qualities and political institutions".

English nationalism

"All these policies share one common feature, they run counter to the essential character of the British people. They are the third way not the British way.

"Because New Labour do not understand the British way, they pursue policies which not only threaten our political institutions but also, because those institutions shape our national character, threaten Britain itself."

He told his audience that devolution has unleashed a wave of nationalism in Scotland and Wales which, in turn, is threatening a dangerous eruption of English nationalism.

Mr Hague also said that in the EU there is a concerted drive by politicians towards a federal European state.

"And here in Westminster, we find a government which you could be forgiven for believing, thinks that British history started on 1 May 1997 - that understands nothing about our traditions except that it wants to destroy them," he claimed.

No purpose

New Labour is "so lacking in any clear purpose other than its own re-election that it will vandalise our constitution and happily let Britain be broken apart and submerged in a United States of Europe".

[ image: The euro is not inevitable, says Mr Hague]
The euro is not inevitable, says Mr Hague
But Mr Hague insisted the British people still have a choice. "None of these things are inevitable. They are all political decisions. There are no trains leaving stations, motorways without exits or ships set on particular courses."

It is up to the Conservative party to offer an alternative based on a Britain where: "families and individuals have the freedom to reach the limits of their ambitions, a Britain with the self-confidence to choose its own destiny in a global age."

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