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Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Memo to new Tory leader: Part I
William Hague resigns outside Conservative HQ
The Tories should be tough and dramatic on Europe.
Mark Mardell

How can the Conservative party revive its fortunes? Mark Mardell imagines what a fictional party strategist might tell the new leader when he, or she, takes over from William Hague.

Dear Leader,

You need to win on the centre with arguments of the right.

But remember most British people are not net curtain-twitching Nazis yearning for a return to the 1950s. The Daily Mail sells because it has good beauty tips and you can read it on the train without hitting someone in the face.

First, Europe, the root of all the party's troubles.

If there was a simple good answer, you would have found it by now. Anything will be an awkward compromise. But the bigger hitters of the Tory left have to be brought back on board.


The bigger hitters of the Tory left have to be brought back on board

The party's policy should be against the euro, with no equivocation. But all members of the party will campaign as they wish and say what they wish. No-one who is pro-euro will have a job shadowing the Treasury or Foreign Office.

This enforced pluralism will be celebrated and extended to many other areas. You will say: "This party is a real British political party, a loose alliance of like-minded people, not a regiment of robots directed from the top."

Civil war

However. There will be a special party conference to decide policy on the euro for the next election in three years time. Party strategists, unlike most Conservative politicians, will hope that Britain has voted "yes" in a referendum and that all the shouting will be over. Anyone who wants to reverse the policy can leave the party. If a referendum has not been held civil war is probable again.

And we should do something tough and dramatic on the EU itself. Abolish the commissioners and replace with politicians from national parliaments?

Maybe. Anyway, serious reform, not disengagement.

In the meantime you will make Ken Clarke deputy prime minister with responsibility for shadowing both health and education. These are now the party's key priorities.

More of that later.


It is part of the unwritten, indeed hidden, constitution that the Conservative party... should soak up votes that would otherwise go to fascists

You will make David Willetts shadow chancellor on the condition that although he is very clever and thoughtful he will hide this.

Instead he will be dull and respectable. He can, however, muse about the cost of state provision. Nail down how much things cost in tax.

But remember: it's not the economy yet, stupid.

It's freedom. Whenever any spokesman gets a chance to say the party's name they will say: "The Conservative party, the party of liberty".

They will say it until they feel physically sick and think they look ridiculous.

Asylum surprise

They will put up with clever interviewers taking the mickey. They will not drop it after two days. After a year the first bloke in the pub will say: "Say what you like, they do believe in liberty, that's what I fink anyway."

To some surprise the policy on asylum will stay although the rhetoric will change. Nasty-looking dogs wearing union jack waistcoats will appear in Essex, Kent and parts of the North. It is part of the unwritten, indeed hidden, constitution that the Conservative party (the party of liberty) should soak up votes that would otherwise go to fascists.


If the current lot of MPs are the best the party can do then all is lost

But there will be a whole-hearted commitment to welcome a set number of economic migrants who can prove they can earn their living.

Interesting arguments about melting pots versus mulit-culturalism will be buried in a welcoming of diversity.

Can't be choosers

Shaliesh Vara, who failed to take a Northampton seat will be made the Conservative party's (the party of liberty's) national spokesman on immigration and asylum with a seat in the shadow cabinet. This will be part of a move to make sure the media accepts spokespeople who are not in parliament.

If the current lot of MPs are the best the party can do then all is lost. The saying is that beggars can't be choosers - observation suggests rather that they take advantage of their infirmities.

Any opposition to Clause 28 is ditched. You, leader, will be heard to say until the National Health Service is the best in the world, you won't be setting up a ministry for what goes on in bedrooms.

Lord Tebbit will oppose this and other moves. At party conference a new group of gay Conservatives will vote him their number one icon. Friendly newspapers will be persuaded to montage Lord Tebbit's head onto Village People's leather-clad bodies. A rumour will circulate that a certain piece of intimate jewellery is now known as a "Tebbit".

But that's not the half of it.

Tomorrow I'll let you know what to do with hunting, law and order, fox hunting and Lady Thatcher.

Yours faithfully etc.

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