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Wednesday, 17 May, 2000, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Hague undermining democracy says Beckett
Margaret Beckett
Margaret Beckett: William Hague is creating disillusion
William Hague is being accused by the Labour leader of the Commons Margaret Beckett of fostering public cynicism on politics.

Ms Beckett's speech, due later on Wednesday, follows a recent dip in Labour's lead over the Tories in the polls.

In her speech the cabinet minister will argue that Mr Hague's attacks on the government have gone beyond the normal cut and thrust of political debate and are creating dangerous public disillusion with politicians.

In recent weeks Mr Hague has but Labour on the backfoot with his populist stance on asylum seekers, self defence and the law on double jeopardy.

Leaping on bandwagons

Speaking ahead of her speech, Ms Beckett told the BBC: "He is leaping on every passing issue and every passing bandwagon, without, as far as I can see, much thought about the long-term consequences of what he is saying.

She accused the Tory leader of attempting to create a climate in which the public distrusted politicians, which she said was "really harmful to democracy".

"I've always thought his short term judgement was very bad but if it is only doing harm to himself and the Conservative Party then that's their problem.

"But if he is actually harming and undermining confidence in our democracy then I think that is serious."

Speaking in Mr Hague's defence, Tory frontbencher Andrew Lansley said that the party leader was actually "speaking up for the people".

"Instead of complaining about the Conservative Party [Ms Beckett] should be addressing herself much more to the simple fact that Labour are not delivering on their election promises," he said.

"They are going in the wrong direction and it is going to get worse."

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See also:

14 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour attacks 'knee-jerk' policies
01 May 00 | UK Politics
Hague warned over asylum debate
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