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Monday, October 4, 1999 Published at 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK

UK Politics

Tories make new promises

William Hague unveiling his "Common Sense Revolution" in Blackpool

The Conservatives have set out their vision of the future and defended their history on the first day of their conference in Blackpool.

BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley: "Mr Hague is calling this a "Common Sense Revolution"
Tory leader William Hague gave five guarantees to voters when he unveiled 60 policies to form the centrepiece of the party's next election campaign.

Through his "Common Sense Revolution", he promised taxpayers would pay less under a Tory government.

Other key ideas were handing powers over the running of schools to parents, forcing the unemployed to take any job on offer and guaranteed waiting times for patients.

But the first day of the Conservative conference was also notable for the renewed vigour of the attack on Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Hague boasted his glossy policy document would provide a "step change in the opposition to this arrogant and unresponsive government".

In the first address from the conference hall, party chairman Michael Ancram went further - hitting back at the prime minister's attack last week on the "forces of conservatism" in Britain.

[ image:  ]
"What an insult to all those Conservatives who through this century have served their country and served it well, often in the teeth of the fiercest opposition from the party which Mr Blair now leads," he told party members.

"We are proud forces of conservatism gathered here today. Let us remind Mr Blair just what these forces of conservatism in this conservative century achieved.

"Let's remind him of the defeat of the evils of fascism and communism abroad.

"That Mr Blair is the true and proud record of this conservative century, which your demagogic rhetoric and rewriting of history can never destroy."

[ image:  ]
Mr Hague, buoyed by a fresh endorsement from Baroness Thatcher who said he was doing "superbly", also blamed the government for growing disillusionment among the British people about politics and politicians.

"Their breath-taking hypocrisy has deepened the mood of cynical detachment," the Tory leader said.

"Last week in Bournemouth, Tony Blair defined himself and the Labour Party only by what they are against and that was the instincts of Britain."

The Conservatives promised to restore public confidence by backing their policy initiative with "guarantees of delivery that can't be broken".

Mr Hague said: "The tax assurance is that we will take a smaller amount at the end of the next parliament as a proportion of national income."

He stressed that this could not be fiddled by Treasury officials, saying Chancellor Gordon Brown had presided over "stealth" tax rises.

Mr Hague said the Tories would also use the tax system to promote marriage, which he called "the cornerstone of a strong society".

While Mr Hague stressed he was not setting out a full manifesto for the next election, he insisted he was offering a valid alternative to the British people.

He defined his programme as giving power back to the people.

[ image: The unemployed would be forced to take work or lose benefits]
The unemployed would be forced to take work or lose benefits
"We're going to give parents the power to sack failing school management," he said.

Schools would take over responsibility for setting teachers' pay packages, under the Tory plans.

Local Education Authorities would no longer channel money to schools, although Mr Hague insisted they would not be abolished.

The central pledge on health set out on Monday was different waiting times for different treatments, which the party says would allow it to give guaranteed waiting times.

Another guarantee from Mr Hague was that everybody who is able to work would be forced to take a job by the Tories.

"If you don't take a job when it's offered you lose your benefits," he said.

JobCentres would be paid by results to ensure they did everything possible to give people the chance to work, he said.

On Europe, the Conservative leader repeated the mantra that he would not sign up to the euro within the lifetime of the next parliament.

"When the Conservative Party wins the next election the attempt to bundle the country into the European single currency will stop and we will not abolish the pound," he said, to cheers and loud applause from party members at the back of the hall.

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