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The BBC's Nicholas Jones reports
"Mr Haigue insists his policies are mainstream"
 real 28k

William Hague
"I'm not trying to turn it into a more right wing party."
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 10:06 GMT
Hague denies drift to right

William Hague: Support "in bad times as well as good"

William Hague has insisted he is not taking his party further to the right, following attacks from senior Conservatives.

The Tory leader was speaking to the BBC after releasing his New Year message, which urged grassroots members to look forward to the next general election and not become "down-hearted" about the difficulties facing the party.

John Major: Tories should mobilise left and centre of the party
But the message came at the same times as former prime minister John Major criticised Tory MPs who advocate a move further to the right.

He has urged Mr Hague to mobilise the left and centre of the party in order to win the next general election.

Mr Major's attack comes days after similar criticism from former chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who accused Mr Hague of surrounding himself with a group of "way-out young ideologues" who had moved the party too far to the right.

But Mr Hague said the Tories remain a mainstream party which was now determined to get across its common sense revolution, which includes keeping the pound, to voters.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "I agree with his [John Major's] comments about not moving right or left. I'm not trying to turn it into a more right wing party."

Mr Major's comments had been taken out of context, said Mr Hague.

He continued: "He is warning the party to do something it is not going to do anyway, and so that is not the issue.

"The issue is how we now take out tot he country, and succeed in taking out to the country, a range of positive, mainstream, common sense policies we have already adopted."

Kenneth Clarke: Critical of leadership
Those policies had been welcomed by all members of the party, including Mr Major and Mr Clarke.

Mr Hague denied his party was obsessed by Europe, saying: "We say we don't want to hand over more and more of our rights and powers to Brussels.

"We want to work our neighbours but we're not going to be governed increasingly by the European Union. Someone has to stand up and say that and that's not an obsession with Europe.

"I'm happy to talk about many other things and frequently do. It's not obsession, it is speaking up for the vital interests of this country and that what I will continue to do and I won't be put off by anybody."

Someone has to stand up and say that and that's not an obsession with Europe.
William Hague
Mr Hague said he supported his shadow chancellor Francis Maude in saying the party could not be lectured by former members of the last Tory government.

Mr Hague said part of his responsibility as leader was to bring on a new generation of talent to the party but he was not in the business of driving anyone out of the party, such as Mr Clarke.

Mr Hague also brushed off the resignation of economist Irwin Stelzer, who had been appointed to a Tory advisory panel.

Mr Stelzer, an aide to Rupert Murdoch, said the "spin" put on his appointment by the Conservatives forced him to resign and added that the party did not have "clear economic policies".

Mr Hague said it was a pity Mr Stelzer had resigned but there were plenty of other appointees willing to sit on the panel.

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Murdoch aide resigns from Tory panel
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Major attacks Tory right
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Hague looks to 'great election battle'
29 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Tories rebuke Clarke over comments
28 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Clarke savages Hague's leadership
29 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Blair calls for change and progress
29 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Kennedy's New Year resolution

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