Hague leadership is weak, says Labour's new recruit

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The Independent Online
THE MP Peter Temple-Morris yesterday spoke of his feeling of relief at having taken the final step in a move from the Tory benches to the Labour camp.

The Leominster MP confirmed yesterday that, after seven months as an exile from the Tory party, he was severing all links and joining Labour. He said: "I believe the future of the country is with New Labour and with Tony Blair ... I must say I feel very relieved this morning."

Speaking on BBC TV's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Temple-Morris also rounded on what he claimed was weak leadership of the Tory party from William Hague. He said Mr Hague was a nice and intelligent man, and he had nothing against him personally. "But I think his style of leadership is proving to be weak. He is not shaping up to those very elements which have brought John Major down and indeed Thatcher before - elements which take the Conservative Party way away from the British people."

Mr Temple-Morris rejected suggestions that he should resign and force a by-election to test local voters' support for his move.

He stressed that he had written a personal manifesto for the last election, which included an open campaign in favour of the single currency, Europe and constitutional reform.

"Had the leadership election turned out differently, which is what I very much hoped, this might not have happened."

He conceded that had he switched parties 10 years ago, he would have gone almost automatically to the Liberal Democrats or the SDP. "But the point is so much of what I want, and indeed so much of what the Liberal Democrats want, is now being done by Tony Blair," he said.

Mr Temple-Morris stressed he had done no deals and would expect no frontbench job as a result of making the switch.

The Leominster MP said that Tory policies on Europe and the single currency were the catalyst for his decision but the "last straw" was the Conservative attitude over the bi-partisan policy on Northern Ireland.

For the Conservatives, social security spokesman Iain Duncan Smith said he believed that Mr Temple-Morris had been "in the wrong party almost from the word go". He told GMTV's Sunday programme: "It's very difficult to find out how many times one man can leave a party. I thought Peter Temple-Morris had left the party months ago, some might say even years ago."

But there was support for the party-switch MP from Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness.

Also speaking on GMTV, he described Mr Temple-Morris as "one of the most honourable British politicians I have ever met in my life".

Last night the Prime Minister welcomed Mr Temple-Morris's decision "to put his faith and future in the Labour Party". A spokeswoman said: "Mr Blair has a great deal of respect for Mr Temple-Morris and believes he will make an excellent Labour MP."