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Tory leader William Hague speaking on Five Live
"We can win, this election is wide open"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Hague likened to Kinnock
Ffion and William Hague
Hague insists victory is within his grasp
William Hague has been on the receiving end of a mauling from a traditional Conservative supporter who said his leadership was a handicap to Tory election chances.

The caller on a BBC Five Live phone-in show on Thursday accused Mr Hague of being a Tory version of Labour's Neil Kinnock.


I believe that at the moment as leader you are the Conservative version of Neil Kinnock back in the early 1980s

Radio phone-in caller
Mr Hague brushed off the attack, saying it was his job to win over such voters over the next fortnight.

And he insisted the general election race was still wide open as millions of people were still undecided in their voting intentions.

Kinnock comparison

The caller asked whether Mr Hague would stand down as leader if he lost the election.

Mr Hague replied: "This election is wide open. Millions of people have not decided how to vote or whether to vote.

"I'm not planning for defeat, I'm planning for victory."

He claimed he was winning a very good reaction from the public but the caller, who said he was traditionally a Tory voter, continued to press him.

Neil Kinnock
Hague has evoked Kinnock comparisons
"I believe that at the moment as leader you are the Conservative version of Neil Kinnock back in the early 1980s where a lot of people did agree with the Labour Party's policies but due to the type of leader in charge of the party they did not get elected," he said.

Mr Hague responded: "Then I've got to win you over in the next two weeks, haven't I?"

He denied reports that his father Nigel had said a Tory election win would be "miracle".

No racist votes

On the phone-in, the Tory leader also defended the way he dealt with John Townend, the former MP whose comments on immigration meant he was threatened with expulsion from the party.

Mr Hague denied Mr Townend's views were prevalent in Conservative Associations across the country.

He continued: "I don't want anybody's vote who is a racist. Absolutely not.

"I don't think that the vast majority of people in this country are racist at all."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are challenging him to shift the spotlight onto public services.

Retaining doctors

But Mr Hague turned his fire on Labour's targets to recruit more doctors and nurses for the NHS.

He accused Labour of "plucking a number out of the air".


Rather than setting an arbitrary target, what we should be doing is things that encourage people to stay in the health service.

William Hague
A Tory government could achieve any target faster by focusing on retaining more current staff, while also matching Labour's health spending plans.

"We have got a serious shortage of all these people that has arisen under them in the last four years," he continued.

"Rather than setting an arbitrary target, what we should be doing is things that encourage people to stay in the health service.

"Not just plucking a number out of the air, but doing things that encourage people to be in these professions."

Mr Hague also indicated he would scrap the government's existing targets for reducing waitings lists.

"We have got to get rid of things like political, statistically motivated things like the waiting list and let the doctors decide how long somebody should have to wait and how quickly somebody should be dealt with."

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