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Former UK Prime Minister, John Major
"William is suited to government and not soap operas"
 real 56k

Conservative leader William Hague
outlines his party's family tax plans
 real 56k

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"John Major's wake up call was a direct attack on Tony Blair"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Major blasts Labour 'deceit'
John Major
John Major attacked Labour's "delusions of power"
The Conservatives have deployed two former prime ministers into the election battle as it takes on a more personal edge.

John Major launched a vicious attack on Labour's record in government and their use of spin, which he said verged on "bare-faced deception".

Lady Thatcher
Lady Thatcher was mobbed by crowds
And in a speech to party activists Mr Major paid glowing tribute to his successor William Hague, "a shrewd, straight-talking Yorkshireman".

Earlier on Tuesday Lady Thatcher took part in a typically attention-grabbing walkabout in Northampton, insisting "all is not lost" for her party despite poll ratings remaining poor.

The twin appearances on the election trail came after Mr Hague moved to put tax back at the top of his campaign agenda - pitching his party's proposals at young families.

He later made a keynote speech at a rally in Brighton, with a tough-talking introduction from Mr Major.

The former prime minister said he was "contemptuous of spin", claiming he had been no good at it when in power.

The polls suggest the nation is sleepwalking to catastrophe

John Major
"Spin is first cousin to deceit. Of course every political party puts the best gloss on its record and the electorate know that," Mr Major said.

"But the Labour Party have carried spin far beyond gloss and towards bare-faced deception.

"Their skill is to take a truth and twist it beyond any acceptable meaning."

Mr Major claimed that at the last election Labour had used an untrue "scare story", accusing the Tories of planning to end the state pension.

He said similar tactics would probably be used in the closing days of this campaign, predicting they would focus on Tory plans for the NHS.

William Hague
Mr Hague paid tribute to John Major's legacy

He also took a swideswipe at Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, accusing him of behaving like a "street corner delinquent" when he punched a demonstrator who threw an egg at him.

Mr Major ended by declaring: "The polls suggest the nation is sleepwalking to catastrophe - our job is to wake them up."

Lady Thatcher earlier predicted Tory ratings would go up as the campaign progressed, adding: "All is not lost - all is never lost."

Despite being mobbed by large crowds, Lady Thatcher said she welcomed hitting the campaign trail again.

"It's terrific - all part of the election," she said.

Asked about William Hague's handling of the election campaign, she replied: "He's a fighter."

'Stealth tax' attack

The main Conservative thrust of the day was focused on taxation, with Mr Hague telling his morning news conference that under Labour taxes had gone up by 28bn.

He insisted his policies would benefit hard-working families on a tight budget, people reliant on their cars and those who saved.

"Over the last four years, Britain's hard-pressed families have borne the brunt of Labour's stealth taxes," he said.

"Gordon Brown has introduced 45 new stealth taxes during the course of this parliament.

"Taxes in total are up by 28bn since 1997, the equivalent of a 10p increase in the basic rate of income tax - and it's the poorest families who have been hit hardest.

"Taxes on marriage, taxes for driving, taxes for wanting to own your own home, taxes for putting a little money aside, even taxes for growing old."

He went on to outline what he said would be 8bn of tax cuts under a Tory government that would help savers, pensioners, families and car drivers.

'Come clean'

But Treasury Chief Secretary Andrew Smith said the Tories should come clean about how far they would go with tax cuts.

He said their cuts would hit health and education.

"The Tories' figures are unravelling.

"They must now come clean with the British people as to exactly which hospitals and which schools will be closed to meet their 20bn of spending cuts."

Later Mr Hague returned to the theme of Europe, attacking as "absolutely unacceptable" European Commission president Romano Prodi's call for an EU-wide tax to pay its 60bn-a-year running costs.

And he accused Mr Blair of covering up the threat of new taxes posed by greater European integration.


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