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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 18:16 GMT 19:16 UK

UK Politics

Hague delivers most powerful performance yet

William Hague sends them home happy

By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder

William Hague has sent the Tory faithful away from their annual conference in Blackpool convinced they can win the next election.

BBC Chief Political Correspondent John Sergeant: Has Hague managed to convince Tory voters who chose Blair last time?
In an end-of-conference performance that secured his leadership and put a new spring in the step of party members, he managed to lift the gloom which has virtually paralysed his party since its 1997 humiliation.

He launched his most powerful assault yet on Tony Blair, branding him a fraud and a liar, and he hit all the right buttons on Europe, law and order and morality.

He came closer than ever before to ruling out Britain ever joining the single European currency under a Tory government, claiming: "the economic case for the euro on its performance is utterly unconvincing."

He put less stress on the caring, liberal tone that has marked previous speeches in favour of a more hard-line message summed up by the slogan "come with me and I will give you back your country".

It was a vintage performance delivered by a leader who knows he is at his best in front of an audience - particularly a friendly one.

He knew he had to do something special to convince members that he was the best leader they could have and could lead them to election victory, and he pulled it off with probably the best performance by any leader during the conference season.

On the offensive

What remains to be seen is whether the self confidence and fighting spirit he imparted to his troops takes root.

Until his speech, the conference had been overshadowed by continuing rows over Europe and comments made by former leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

He made no attempt to address those rows but instead focussed on hammering home his "common sense revolution" message and putting his party on the offensive.

Turning on Mr Blair, he declared: " What annoys me most about today's Labour politicians is not their beliefs - they are entitled to those - but their sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy. They say one thing and do another.

"They send their children to schools they want to abolish for others. They are driven in cars 250 yards to give speeches telling other people not to drive their own. They tell other people not to have second homes when they've got three themselves.

"They make their lip-trembling proclamation that the class war is over while the very same day they boo 14 year old girls because they come from a private school."

He also attempted to stick Labour with a "great lie" tag, claiming: "When the government of Britain is the most two-faced, interfering, over-regulating, arrogant and crony-run in our history Britain needs a common sense revolution.

Like Thatcher

"Before the election, Tony Blair claimed to be so admiring of Conservative success. He implied he would be like Margaret Thatcher.

"He pledged to be against higher taxes, to be tough on crime, to think the unthinkable on welfare, to fight for Britain's interests in Europe. This was their great deception. This was the great Labour lie," he claimed.

He heaped praise on his home affairs spokesman and conference darling Ann Widddecombe claiming: "in the next Conservative government, when Ann Widdecombe is home secretary I want every criminal in the land to look like Labour ministers do when she gets up to speak - absolutely terrified."

He also dismissed the Liberal Democrats, declaring: "God save us from the spineless, crawling to the government of the Liberal politicians."

He received a predictable ovation but, most significantly, the activists gathered in Blackpool were genuinely impressed by his performance.

"This is what we had been waiting to hear," said one. "We have finally pulled ourselves together and are back on the attack."

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Hague attacks 'Labour hypocrites'

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