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Tuesday, October 5, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK


UK Politics

Hague's blueprint for success

The Tory leader wants a 'common sense revolution'

William Hague is not the first political leader to launch a call to the barricades with a cry for "revolution".

In fact, the Tory leader's latest political slogan, "the Common Sense Revolution" which marks the opening shots in the next general election campaign, has already been used successfully elsewhere.

Conference99
In Canada in 1995 the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party took control of the state government running on a platform of the same name. The party's leader, Mike Harris, was returned as Ontario's premier.

Just like the UK Conservatives, the platform was based around a five point plan which had been formulated through consolations with the voters.

But despite the similarities Leslie Noble, the campaign manager for the Tory's counterparts in Ontario in the 1995 election, insists William Hague has not stolen their lines although he did pay them a visit in February this year.

She told BBC News Online the Conservatives have "taken some of the themes but they have got their own ideas".

"When Mr Hague was through Toronto last year he seemed to be particularly interested in a couple of our things - like welfare reform and tax cuts."

Cross pollination

The campaign manager added: "They made the point saying, 'Our challenges are way different than yours but the idea of bringing common sense to government is really a revolutionary idea, it is something that we need.'

"We have learned a lot from them over the years - and we have some good ideas - we can cross pollinate."

The Common Sense Revolution worked wonders for the Ontario party. It was launched a year before the 1995 election and managed to overturn a massive 30 point deficit for the party at the polls.

The Tories could do with a similar tonic if they are to oust Labour at the next election.

A recent poll by Mori conducted in September puts Labour on 52% with the Conservatives slipping down to just 25%.

Listening to Britain

A Tory party spokesman said the ideas behind Mr Hague's new sound bite had been based on the Listening to Britain campaign which saw MPs and shadow ministers talking to the public in an attempt to home in on their concerns.

And although the Conservatives have had talks with Progressive Conservatives in Ontario he said they had also drawn on the experience of right-wing politicians elsewhere like Republican presidential candidate George W Bush.

The spokesman told BBC News Online: "Certainly we hope it will draw their [the voters] attention to what we have to say.

"We think they are going to like the look of it because, as we say, it has been drawn from what we have learnt from people's concerns.

"I'm not going to predict that in two years time we will be 30% up in the polls but we hope it is going to be popular."

Bitter fruit

But the Canadian model has not been seen as a success by everybody.

John Nelson from Ontario, Canada, emailed BBC News Online to say the common sense revolution had borne bitter fruit in his opinion.

He said: " The platform was sold to the public with promises of lower taxes, which of course is very popular.

"What is never mentioned are the inevitably reduced services in education, health care, social programs, and infrastructure support.

"And generally, the lower taxes affect high middle and upper income earners, widening the social gaps even more.

"People don't realize that critical services have been whittled away until they need them - and even then, its difficult to make the leap of logic from your grandpa getting pneumonia in hospital to the fact that one voted Conservative."



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