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Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 13:27 GMT
Howe warns of more Tory defections

hague William Hague: Denies the party has moved to the right

Lord Howe has become the latest senior Conservative to join the chorus of attacks on William Hague's leadership of the party.

The former Conservative chancellor warned that Mr Hague risked a rising tide of desertions from Tory ranks if an effort was not made to broaden the party's appeal.

His comments in an article for the Independent newspaper follow the defection to Labour of the party's London spokesman Shaun Woodward last month.

Howe Lord Howe: Fears Tory MPs will defect in all directions

They will also step pressure on Mr Hague after similar criticism from other Tory grandees, including former prime minister John Major, who have warned that the party has lurched too far to the right.

Lord Howe warned that the Conservatives had yet to convince the public that they were worthy to be returned to power.

Under Mr Hague, the party was "to put it gently - is not widely regarded as a credible alternative".

Lord Howe warned that it could turn into a political "catherine wheel" with MPs flying off in all directions.

The former foreign secretary said that by comparison Lady Thatcher had had "almost literally magnetic" power before her downfall as prime minister.

woodward Shaun Woodward: Defected to Labour

Lord Howe wrote: "Last year, Mr Hague lost both his leader in the Lords, Robert Cranborne, and his own deputy leader, Peter Lilley, in the latter case because of one ill-timed but important and thought-provoking speech.

"By these standards, even Sir Keith Joseph [Lady Thatcher's ideological mentor] might have been lucky to survive.

"Mr Hague thus risks finding himself at the catherine wheel stage, without having enjoyed any magnetic interlude on the way."

To avoid that fate Mr Hague "must set consciously to attract back into his tent at least some of those whom he should never have lost".

As important as fresh faces, he insisted, were "credible fresh policy positions" concentrating, for example, on health or education.

"That certainly doesn't require another bible of detail on everything under the sun, such as the 'Commonsense Revolution' document," Lord Howe declared.

Lord Howe added that Mr Hague should not be distracted by "every fly-by-night" defection from Tory ranks.

But he went on: "There was little to admire about the clumsiness with which the wretched Shaun Woodward affair was disposed of".

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See also:
13 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Dead sheep talking
02 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Norris warns against move to right
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Hague denies drift to right
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Murdoch aide resigns from Tory panel
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Major attacks Tory right
29 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Tories rebuke Clarke over comments
28 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Clarke savages Hague's leadership

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