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The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"Hague has broadened the appeal of his campaign"
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Conservative leader, William Hague
"I believe passionately that the United Kingdom belongs to all of us"
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Friday, 1 June, 2001, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Hague in race pledge
Hagues with leaders of the Muslim Community
The Hagues met leaders of the Muslim Community
A future Conservative government will be committed to "rooting out racism and bigotry", according to William Hague.

The Tory leader told representatives of the Muslim community in Bradford that his party would govern for "all the people of Britain" if it won the election.

I believe in a Britain where intolerance, bigotry and racism are rooted out

William Hague

The keynote speech to community leaders was designed to reassure ethnic minority voters in advance of polling day and follows months of controversy over race.

Mr Hague said the Muslim community was making an "outstanding contribution" to British society and enriched national life.

Future prime minister

He said he looked forward to the Conservatives producing the UK's first Muslim prime minister.

"Britain's first Jewish prime minister was a Conservative.

"Britain's first woman prime minister was a Conservative.

"And I want Britain's first Muslim prime minister to be a Conservative - though I hope you will forgive me if I say not quite yet."

And he insisted that the Tories wanted an inclusive and tolerant Britain.

"I believe in a Britain where intolerance, bigotry and racism are rooted out and replaced by genuine openness, genuine inclusivity and genuine tolerance.

"I want a society that is at ease with diversity and pluralism, and a society that can celebrate it."

'Rooting out racism'

The Tory leader dimissed claims that his party was racist.

"The fact that the United Kingdom is made up of different communities with a variety of different cultures and traditions greatly enriches our national life.

"Whatever our religious beliefs or our ethnic background, I believe passionately that the United Kingdom belongs to all of us.

"It has never mattered to me whether people are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, white, black or Asian. As far as I am concerned we are all as British as each other.

Clear position

"That has always been my view and it is the clear and unequivocal position of the Conservative Party."

Mr Hague added: "The next Conservative government will be totally committed to rooting out racism and bigotry."

Mr Hague used his speech to call for more people from ethnic minorities to play a greater role in UK politics.

"I am passionately committed to encouraging not just Muslims, but people from all backgrounds, to participate more fully in the mainstream of our national life.

More Asian Tories

"I want the drive and energy that has helped so many of you to succeed in your respective walks of life to take you to the top in the arts, the professions, the media and, yes, politics too.

"I am the first to admit that political parties have not always been successful at welcoming the various ethnic groups in our society," he said.

"Any political party seeking to represent the whole British nation must in its character and make-up seek to be truly representative of that nation.

"That is what I want the Conservative Party to be.

"I want to change forever the appeal of the Conservative Party for British Asians. If we are to govern for all the people, we must be representative of all the people."

This was a theme he returned to at a party rally in Bradford on Friday night.

Muslim values

He reiterated that the Muslim values of family, tradition and enterprise were in tune with Conservative thinking.

"There are central to our Conservative beliefs."

And on the separate issue of asylum seekers, Mr Hague repeated that under the Tories Britain would help genuine refugees and be a "safe haven, not a soft touch".

As he rallied party members, he said Britain now only had "six days to save the pound".

He particularly focused on urban regeneration promising a package of measures including a crackdown on crime and improvements of inner city schools.

The Conservatives became embroiled in a race row in the immediate run-up to the election after a Tory backbencher spoke about Britain's "homogeneous Anglo-Saxon culture".

John Townend, who is not standing for re-election, was forced by Mr Hague to apologise for his remarks after weeks of controversy.


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