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Sunday, October 3, 1999 Published at 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK


UK Politics

Hague's Tory 'revolution'

William Hague: As radical as Thatcher?

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

William Hague will launch the Tory conference in Blackpool with a series of policy announcements he believes will prove as radical as the Thatcher revolution which gripped Britain through the early 1980s.

He will unveil a 50-page document detailing some 60 policies, which will form the heart of the Tory programme for the next election.

Conference99
And he will attempt to convince disheartened members that, by the end of the year, the party will be on form to fight and win a general election.

He will also again brush aside as "yesterday's wars" the "battle of the biographies" which has seen former Prime Minister John Major and ex-Chancellor Norman Lamont reopening old Tory wounds.

Party Chairman Michael Ancram, who will open the conference with an attack on Tony Blair's "lies" on Monday, insisted this conference would see the start of the Tory fightback.

"This is the conference where the gloves come off, where we begin to take on Tony Blair and the cult of Tony Blair we saw being built up in Bournemouth. It is also the conference where we begin to set out our own stall," he said.

Blair cult

He will hammer home the message in an opening address to the conference in which he will attack the prime minister for saying one thing and doing another and vilifying anyone who questions him.

Referring to Mr Blair's conference speech, he will describe it as: "Strutting, ranting, hand-waving, heart-bleeding, sound-biting, sick-making - an hour of puffed up posturing. The cult of Tony Blair.

"If the cult of Blair wants to take credit for everything that goes right, then it must also and equally accept the blame for everything that goes wrong.

"Blair has told enough whoppers to fill a fish market. He has tried to turn Britain into his own fantasyland where promise and image are everything and reality counts for nothing.

"And when reality manages against the odds to intrude in Blair-land, then the goal posts are moved, the figures are fudged and the lies are told," he will claim.

Pointing to hospital waiting lists, "stealth taxes", and class sizes as Labour lies, he will claim voters are "beginning to rumble Blair".

Set tone

His speech will try to set the tone for the conference by looking towards the new programme to be born out of the policy document, which Mr Hague describes as a "common sense revolution", and by targeting the government and Tony Blair in particular.

But shadow ministers have a huge fight on their hands with the conference taking place against the backdrop of sniping by Mr Major and Mr Lamont and reports - dismissed as "malicious rubbish" by aides that Lady Thatcher has criticised Mr Hague's leadership.

There will be a re-emergence of the internal battles over Europe, with a spate of fringe meetings where the two opposing sides will battle it out.

And there will be continued speculation over Michael Portillo's possible return to the party and the effect that will have on Mr Hague's leadership.

The aim of the week will be to send members home believing that, once the radical policy review is completed, the Tories will be ready to fight and win a general election as soon as next autumn.



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