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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt
"Even William Hague's critics respect his resilience"
 real 56k

Monday, 4 June, 2001, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
'Lend us your vote'
William Hague
Mr Hague accused Labour of spin and false promises.
Conservative leader William Hague has appealed to Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters to vote Tory to save the pound.

He said: "Lend us your vote this time, so that your vote will still mean something next time... so that we can carry on having meaningful general elections in an independent Britain."


Lend us your vote this time, so that your vote will still mean something next time

William Hague
Earlier, Mr Hague had used his news conference on Monday morning to outline 20 steps his government would take in its first fortnight in power.

But a poll for ITN's Powerhouse programme suggests that only 4% of Tory supporters expect their party to win.

Landslide warning

Mr Hague, speaking on Monday evening at a rally in Perth, accused Labour of "arrogantly" claiming victory before a vote had been counted.

And he warned of the consequences of a second Labour landslide, predicting more spin and higher taxes.

The government had squandered a massive Commons majority and public goodwill over the past four years, he said.

"So you don't need a crystal ball to see what Labour would do with a landslide they have so arrogantly predicted - you can read the book.

"It is a litany of false promises, higher taxes, more spin and the triumph of style over substance," he added.

On Monday morning, the Tory leader had dismissed continuing opinion poll gloom for his party - saying he would create a smaller government within days of taking office.


I am very generous with credit when things go well and I always get all the blame when things go badly

William Hague

Mr Hague promised that any government which he led would have three fewer cabinet ministers, fewer junior ministers - and would halve the number of 'spin doctors' and special ministerial advisers.

Within four days of winning the election, his government would scrap the national changeover plan designed to prepare business for joining the euro.

And it would also immediately exclude the most serious prisoners from the early release scheme, with a view to ending the policy entirely.

A week after the election, he said, the Conservatives would abolish the NHS waiting list initiative, describing it as "a throwaway pledge on a card that was a gimmick at the last election."

William Hague in Newport, Isle of Wight
William Hague is on a tour of marginal seats

Instead, a Tory government would allow consultants to set a maximum waiting time and give GPs the freedom to refer patients to the hospital of their choice.

Mr Hague also acknowledged that he would take responsibility if the Tories were to lose the election.

He said: "I always get all the blame when things go badly."

A poll for ITN's Powerhouse programme, published on Monday night, suggests that only 4% of Tory supporters expect a Conservative victory - while 78% think Labour will win.

The survey asked 1,000 people across Britain what they expected to happen in Thursday's General Election.

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