DESPITE HAGUE'S victory in the Conservative euro referendum, the Tory Party he supposedly leads has passed away. Cause of death: suicide. It has knifed itself in the back. Like Monty Python's parrot it has fallen off its perch. The classic description of the Conservative Party has never been more true. It is the cream of Britain: thick, rich and full of clots. takes no pleasure in writing the epitaph of the once-great party it supported for the best part of two decades. The party of Burke, Peel, Disraeli, Churchill, Macmillan and Thatcher has played a proud and decisive role in the history of the past 150 years. Sadly, with the new millennium 15 months away, the Tories are a party with a past but no future.
The Daily Telegraph
THE TORIES have not yet found a way of talking to people directly, as New Labour does so skilfully, in a way that echoes their hopes and fears. This is the very foundation of speech-making and campaigning and election- winning, and it is this weakness that can give the impression that the party is talking to itself. On these scores it has much to do. But it has emerged from the week with a united membership and the outline of a persuasive programme. And it has one asset that New Labour can never seize: that of being in the right.
A PATIENT wait for Mr Blair to trip himself up and for the Tories to return to respectability might be Mr Hague's best chance of victory, in not in the next election (its loss, in the jargon of financial markets, is already "discounted" by the upper reaches of his party) then in the one after that. But what is good for the Tories is not necessarily good for their leader. The unstated question in Bournemouth was whether Mr Hague himself can survive that first defeat after which he will probably face challenges from both right (Mr Portillo?) and left (Ken Clarke?). To win those battles, he will need to have attached himself to some sort of party galvanising big idea beyond his party-dividing scepticism on the euro. His flirtation with an English parliament hardly fits the bill.
TORY LEADER William Hague could not have had high expectations of his conference this week. Yet it has been worse than even he dreaded. The official part of the conference was so brain-numbingly boring that even Lady Thatcher dozed off. Mr Hague did his best to rouse the faithful with his big speech. He attacked all the old Tory bogeys in a cheap attempt to win support. But off stage he was being attacked from left and right. However much the factions hate each other, they loathe wee Willy even more. This lot are doomed. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people.
WILLIAM HAGUE can certainly make a speech. It boosted his own authority; after a choppy divisive week he needed to do that. It reminded Conservatives of their potential edge over Labour: their promise of personal liberty over nanny-statism. But his call to Tory activists to move on from the internal work of party reform that has consumed these last 18 months and to take on the Government is just too premature. Maybe in the year leading up the the next election, or the election after that. But now, voters are not desperate to hear opposition - no matter how well articulated by Mr Hague.
MR HAGUE, perhaps understandably, would not have wished to lecture his party as Mr Blair did last week. He does not need to educate his supporters as regularly as Mr Blair feels he must in what they should believe. He can articulate his own feelings and know he speaks for the natural Conservatives inside and outside the conference hall. He gave eloquent expression to the instincts of his activists. It is a good basis from which to develop the new strategies and new policies that will hold out the hope of emancipation to those who supported his party in the Eighties and deserted it in the Nineties. Much more, at this stage, could not have been expected.
GIVEN THAT the mood towards the Tories is as bleak as it was 17 months ago, Hague's assured and combative performance indicates genuine reserves of self-belief. If nothing else, he gives the impression that he really believes the electoral wheel will eventually turn in his party's favour. The parrot that appeared before the Tory faithful yesterday is far from dead. It can flap its wings vigorously. The coming difficult months will test how well it can fly.