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The Sunday papers comment on Shaun Woodward's defection to Labour and what it means for William Hague
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The Independent Culture
Sunday Mirror

The new Millennium is approaching, but the end of the Conservative Party is nigh. The party's lurch to the Right and its shambolic organisation have turned it into a fringe movement and a laughing stock. If the Tories want to survive they will have to dump William Hague and return to their roots of one-nation politics otherwise Shaun Woodward won't be the only defector to Labour. William Hague's letter to Father Christmas should be short and sweet: Please can I have a new job?

The Sunday Telegraph

Shaun Woodward's resignation letter to William Hague might have been written by a New Labour spin doctor; indeed it probably was. But Mr Woodward, like his new Blairite friends, has a selective memory and his colleagues and constituents have every right to feel betrayed by his selfish act. They might conclude that this sorry episode has less to do with the high principle in which it has been cloaked, than with thwarted ambition and foot-stamping frustration.

The Independent on Sunday

This is about as grave a defection as Mr Hague could face. True, it does not have the explosive quality of an act of apostasy by, say, Michael Heseltine or Kenneth Clarke. Yet in its way it is more significant. For they might be dismissed as the representatives of the past. But Mr Woodward was the very embodiment of what the Conservatives need to do if they are to change sufficiently and win back the political allegiance of a nation already very different from the one over which Margaret Thatcher, or even John Major, ruled. He understood there is more to making the Tories electable than baseball caps and Despatch Box japes.

The Sunday Times

The Tories defended Clause 28, which prevents local authorities promoting homosexuality in schools. Its London spokesman, Shaun Woodward, bucked the party line and claimed he had been sacked by pager. A brace of gay Tory candidates for London declared themselves outraged. Then the leadership compromised on Section 28. Mr Woodward said: "I will continue to serve Mr Hague loyally from the back benches." He is a former spin doctor so we know what that meant. He ran off to join Labour. Lady Thatcher is thinking out loud what we all know: the Tories are doomed to defeat.

Sunday People

This is a bitter blow for William Hague and the Conservatives and shows just what a washed-up party the Conservatives have become. But it is good news for Tony Blair, who has welcomed the MP with open arms. The Tories are already a dying party - only one in 10 members are under the age of 54. At this rate they'll be lucky to make it to the year 2000.

The Observer

Tories like Woodward - pro-capitalist but with a social conscience, believers in quality public services, pro-European and liberal on personal and sexual matters - have no home in the contemporary Conservative Party. The collapse of socialism at home and the Soviet Union abroad has robbed the 20th century Tory coalition of its purpose; it has regressed to its pre-1914 reactionary roots - and its coalition is coming apart. New Labour is becoming the new fulcrum around which a near permanent anti-Conservative majority is assembling. Woodward, for all his talk of principle, is a political careerist, and his judgment that power lies with New Labour is telling.

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