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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK

Resignation speech in full

What Conservative leader William Hague told journalists as he stood down as Tory leader on Friday morning.

"The people have spoken.

"And just as it is vital to encourage everyone to participate in our democracy, so it is important to understand and respect the result.


" I've therefore decided to step down as leader of the Conservative party when a successor can be elected in the coming months "
William Hague

"It is important to be clear about the lessons for the Conservative party.

"Some may be for debate in the future, others are already clear.

"The Labour party have won the election and I have already congratulated them on doing so.

"But they have done so without great public enthusiasm.

"The voters have given them the benefit of the doubt.

"But the government should understand that a second successive failure to deliver would breed deep disillusionment and cynicism, not only about the government, but with politics in general.

"It is therefore a vital task for the Conservative party in the coming parliament to hold the government to account for the promises they have made and the trust people have placed in it.

"The government has been elected to do a job, so have we as the opposition and we must do it.

"Second, the Conservative party during the last parliament, but not in this election, made significant advances, vastly extending its local government base.

"We will start from a stronger base in this parliament than in the last.

"The forces of Conservatism are stronger and at least better organised than they were four years ago.

"Third, despite that stronger base and the diminishing enthusiasm for New Labour, we have not been able to persuade a majority or anything approaching a majority, that we are yet the alternative government that they need.

Closer

"Nor have I been able to persuade sufficient numbers that I am their alternative prime minister.

"I believe the next general election will be a far closer contest than the one just held.

"It is the overriding duty of our party to be not only effective in parliament and rigorous in campaigning, but to present a leadership with the strongest possible credibility and appeal.

"In achieving that objective no man or woman is indispensable and no individual is more important than the party and thereby the democratic health of our country.

"I've led this party for four years, have always considered it a great privilege and have actually enjoyed every single day.

Passionately

"I believe strongly, passionately, in everything I've fought for.

"But it's also vital for leaders to listen and parties to change.

"I believe it is vital the party be given the chance to choose a leader who can build on my work, but also take new initiatives and hopefully command a larger personal following in the country.

"I've therefore decided to step down as leader of the Conservative party when a successor can be elected in the coming months.

"I will continue until that time to carry out the parliamentary and other duties of the leader of the opposition.

"Some colleagues have urged me to stay on for a period so that the party could reflect at greater length but it will in any case take some weeks for a successor to be elected under our new leadership election rules and the process cannot start until a new chairman of the 1922 committee has been chosen.

"A longer period would leave the party with a caretaker leadership for too long and I believe a new leader must be elected in time for the party conference in October.

"I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks for the untiring efforts of my colleagues across the party who made it possible to fight a coherent, vigorous and united, albeit unsuccessful, campaign.

"I'd like to express similar thanks to my staff who have formed today an intensely loyal and professional team and to Ffion without whom I would not have had the strength to carry the last four years and above all to the many millions who voted Conservative yesterday.

"I wish I could have led you to victory but now we must all work for our victories in the future."


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