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Tuesday, 15 February, 2000, 16:17 GMT
The circus comes to town

William Hague: Heard the authentic voice of Britain
BBC News Online's political correspondent Nick Assinder follows William Hague
Main story

William Hague descended on St Albans like a backwoods evangelical preacher come to save souls.

Standing on a makeshift platform alongside his newly-acquired battle truck - technology's equivalent of the preacher's canvas tent - he poured fire and brimstone on those sinners who did not want so save their sterling.

With his new shadow chancellor Michael Portillo on his right hand side, he lambasted the many-horned Blair and all his works.

And he warned of the everlasting fire awaiting those who sold their souls to euro-ism.

'Saved from the beast'

He even attempted the old call-and-response trick so beloved of fundamentalists.

Hague and Portillo: Saving St Albans from Brussels
"Cry out if you want to be saved from the beast from Brussels," he more-or-less said.

A few lost souls replied "Hallelujiah brother" - or was that just the Big Issue seller huddled in the doorway against the icy wind.

Inevitably, as is always the way with these misguided attempts to recapture a long-abandoned political tradition, Mr Hague became more circus performer than evangelist.

Once you moved away from the specially invited audience of local Tories and entered the mosh pit of ordinary punters trying to get on with their lives, you heard the authentic voice of Britain - well bits of St Albans anyway.

And, of course, the real voices were far more entertaining than anything coming from the stage.

'Who's the bald bloke?'

"Who's that bald bloke standing next to Michael Portillo?" yelled one.

"Where's Debbie McGee," cried another, pretending he had mistaken Mr Hague for that master of magic Paul Daniels.

Others were more direct and, frankly, obscene - particularly where Mr Portillo was concerned.

They were trying to do their shopping on one of the coldest days this winter and were well and truly ticked off at being hampered by this uninvited Punch and Judy show which has sprawled all over their pavements.

Some even complained to one exasperated policeman who was forced to confess that, yes, this probably was an obstruction of the highway.

Meanwhile the female assistant inside the Boots superstore - whose entrance had been clogged up by the crowd surrounding the Hague battle wagon - was boasting how the reinforced glass doors to the store did a great sound-proofing job and she couldn't hear a word of what was being said.

So what did it all achieve in the end?

According to Mr Hague, he was bringing politics alive and taking the debate into new realms.

Well, if this was the new politics, I think in future I will stay at home in the warm.

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See also:

15 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Hague under fire at euro campaign
15 Feb 00 |  UK
Maples wreaks his revenge
12 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Leftwing monster is back - Hague
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