Hague puts party on election alert

WILLIAM HAGUE has put the Tories on alert for a general election next spring and ordered them to shed their image as a "single issue party" on Europe. Although Tony Blair is unlikely to call an election before autumn next year at the earliest, the Conservative leader has demanded that the party speed up its preparations in case of a snap poll.

But Mr Hague's hopes of preserving a united front on Europe were undermined yesterday when Michael Heseltine warned that the party's hard line against the single currency would harm its election prospects. The former deputy prime minister told BBC Radio 4: "We have won very substantial numbers of victories in the last 40 years when we have been the party advocating closer British involvement in Europe."

Mr Heseltine confirmed that he would join the pro-euro Britain in Europe campaign following last week's pledge by Mr Blair to lead it. He also called for a referendum on the euro before the general election to end the uncertainty facing British companies. Meanwhile, Michael Portillo, the Eurosceptic former cabinet minister, attacked the former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke for co-ordinating his pro-euro statements with Mr Blair, saying he had narrowly avoided actions for which he could be expelled from the party.

Mr Hague has tacitly accepted criticism that his party risks being seen as interested only in Europe by demanding that a wide range of policies are unveiled over the next few months. The Tory leader has called for greater "clarity and conviction" on policy and ordered his Shadow Cabinet to be bold on issues such as health, education and taxation.

Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative home affairs spokeswoman, who is standing in for Mr Hague while he is on holiday, will today launch a summer campaign attacking Labour for "failing to deliver" on its 1997 election promises.

But Mr Hague acknowledges that his party must also start to map out its alternative vision at the Tories' annual conference in October. A document called Agenda for Britain will highlight the main themes from the party's 19 policy groups, before detailed proposals are rolled out. A "war book" setting out the party's election strategy will be presented to Mr Hague shortly after the conference.

"We have got to show that we have practical, sharp-edged and workable solutions," one Tory official said yesterday. "Where we have campaigned on policy - transport, the constitution and Europe - we have closed the opinion poll gap with Labour."

The Tories are convinced that John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, is now the Government's "weak link" because of Britain's growing transport problems. They will say that he should not run the country when Mr Blair goes on holiday to Italy next week on the grounds that he cannot even run his giant Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Mr Hague's demand for fresh policy thinking will reassure senior Tories worried that the party had become a "ideas-free zone". Lord Patten, the former education secretary, recently told Tory MPs: "We must show that we have real ideas to peddle, other than opposition to the single currency. Politics is not a one-club game."

t Tory MP Andrew Tyrie last night urged the Neill committee on standards in public life to investigate 360 trips abroad by the special advisers of Labour ministers, at a cost of almost pounds 500,000 to taxpayers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Advisor - Print

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based just north of York, this ...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Account Manager

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Account Manager is requi...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant - Global Leader - FTSE 250

£18000 - £23000 per annum + competitive: SThree: As an Associate Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family run school photogra...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map