Ditch twin-set and pearls and be brassy says Hague

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WILLIAM HAGUE last night broke the mould of the Major years by calling on the Tory Party to embrace "brassy" life in today's Britain of Eastenders, MTV, and urban culture.

The Conservative party leader sought to break away from the past, and to modernise the image of the Tory Party by challenging Tony Blair's belief in the "Third Way" with a competing vision of "the British Way".

Where his predecessor had conjured up images of a past Britain, of sleepy village, polite manners, and friendly vicars, Mr Hague tried to jolt the Tories into the present of big industrial cities, housing estates - "the Britain which watches MTV and Changing Rooms, and which is fascinated by Ricky and Bianca's ups and downs".

Describing the shift as a "huge cultural change for the Conservative Party", he told an audience in London that theyhad to focus on the Britain where more people went on holiday to Florida than Butlins, - "urban, ambitious, sporty, fashion-conscious, multi-ethnic, brassy, self-confident and international".

Clearly anxious to rid the Tories of the twin-set and pearls image, Mr Hague - once pilloried for wearing a baseball camp with his name on it - said it was a multi-ethnic Britain where hundreds of thousands go to the Notting Hill Carnival.

"It is my profoundest belief that if the Conservative Party is not in touch with the identity and values of the British people then it cannot be authentically Conservative."

He warned: "We must never be the nostalgia party. We must do more than grudgingly accept Britain here and now: we must celebrate it."

The Conservatives must "shed the image that we are nothing more than a party obsessed with economics, and take our rightful place as the champion of the British Way".

The Tory vision as told by John Major 22-4-93: "Fifty years from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on country grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pools fillers and as George Orwell said, `old maids cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist'."

The Tory vision told by William Hague 19-1-99: "Conservatives must embrace Britain as it is today and will be tomorrow. Not just the sleepy villages, polite manners, friendly vicars and novels of Scott and Austen. But also the Britain of industrial cities and housing estates..."