Haven't we been here some time before?

If the Labour Party's experience is anything to go by it will take some time for New Conservatism to find an identity. Tory MPs complain that William Hague is learning from the superficial tactics of the Labour Party - with slick marketing, professional polling and modern slogans - without having put in place the foundations of policy on which to build. It is possible, some critics argue, that Hague is not his party's Tony Blair nor even its Neil Kinnock but instead its Michael Foot, his much- ridiculed baseball cap the equivalent of the donkey jacket.

There are some parallels. Foot took the party to the left, anti-Europe, anti-defence, pro-union, arguing that Labour had lost the 1979 election be- cause it had gone too far to the right, that the winter of discontent was a result of alienating the trade unions. In fact, it left him perceived as an extremist, out of touch with the public mood which was one of anger not sympathy with the workers.

According to the focus groups, Hague has also failed to win support among voters. He, too, is seen as extreme, a right-wing Eurosceptic compared to someone like Kenneth Clarke. Despite trying to distance himself from harsh free market ideas, he was elected leader on a right- wing platform and has hardened up Tory opposition to the European single currency. But there are also similarities between Hague and Kinnock. It was this Labour leader who replaced the red flag with the red rose, began wearing smart suits and deploying slick marketing techniques. Hague is fascinated by the presentation of politics and has hired Amanda Platell, the former editor of the Sunday Express, to improve his image.

But both men are bald and unappealing to the voters. Kinnock had bigger ambitions when he took over the Labour Party in 1983, determined to modernise it. His attempt to introduce one member one vote, and reduce the power of the trade unions, was rejected by the party - Hague forced similar proposals through successfully. Kinnock confronted Militant Tendency head on. Hague believes that his comparable struggle is with the "dinosaurs", the Tory grandees who dog his every step - although unlike Militant Tendency, many of these are among the most popular MPs in his party.

When Tory spin-doctors compared Lilley's distancing of his party from Thatcherism to Labour's battle to dump Clause IV last week, they missed the point. Clause IV was a huge symbolic step, but it was the culmination of a long process. One cabinet minister last week compared the Conservatives' struggles to those of the Labour Party during the 1980s - but said Hague was trying to "telescope" reform into too short a period. It took Labour 18 years and three leaders to get it right. Hague has had only two.

RS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003