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Wednesday, February 10, 1999 Published at 13:57 GMT


UK Politics

US welcomes William who?

George W Bush: Pleased to welcome "Minister Hague"

Tory leader William Hague is visiting the US to seek the secrets of success from American conservatives, but there are signs that some of them have little clue who he is.


BBC News' Laura Trevelyan meets the inventor of 'caring conservatism'
Among the senior Republican politicians and strategists Mr Hague will meet is Texas Governor George W Bush whose innovative brand of "compassionate conservatism" has led to him being widely regarded as the favourite to be his party's candidate in the 2000 presidential election.

Mr Bush, son of former US President George Bush, has scored big successes with voters by pursuing a tax-cutting agenda while also reaching out to the black and Hispanic communities - who have traditionally favoured the Democrats.


[ image: William Hague: Fostering US links]
William Hague: Fostering US links
Some Tories feel they can pick up some valuable pointers from Mr Bush as they struggle to rebuild their party's popularity. But it is clear that the Texas Governor also has much to learn about Mr Hague.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Bush referred to his visitor as "Minister Hague" and admitted he asked the British ambassador who Mr Hague was when UK Conservatives requested a meeting.

"He informs me he's a good fella and a leader in your country and I look forward to visiting with him," said Mr Bush.

"I'm not exactly sure where the dialogue will take us. But I am honoured that he should choose to come."

Mr Bush indicated his willingness to share the secrets of his political philosophy. "I will explain to him why our welfare and education plans are conservative in nature but compassionate in nature because I refuse to leave anyone behind," he said.

But some of his advice on wooing the voters may hold little comfort to Mr Hague, languishing in the polls despite Labour's ministerial misfortunes.

"You have to win. You have got to be in a position to implement policy," said Mr Bush.

"It's hard to talk about why the conservative philosophy is caring unless you are in a position to be able to put policies in place that prove the point."

Transatlantic links

During their stay in the US, Mr Hague and his wife Ffion will also meet prominent Republicans such as the Mayor of new York Rudy Giuliani and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The Tories are not the only British party to seek electoral advice from US politicians in recent times. In the mid-1990s Labour, made frequent forays to Washington hoping to learn the secrets of the Democrats' electoral success.

That relationship blossomed into the close ties between the Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton.



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