Hague tries a card trick - but Blair did it first

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM HAGUE is planning to use millions of "pledge cards", similar to those issued by the Labour Party at the last election, to get the Tory message across.

The Conservative Party has had draft cards produced detailing its "contract" with the people. However, while Labour's list of five pledges was illustrated by a picture of Tony Blair, the Tories' plain, navy-blue card has no photograph of their party leader. Under an image of the Conservative torch, one side states that the Tories are a "Changing Party"; the other sets out their "New Agenda".

Among its items are: "Better schools and hospitals" - similar to Labour's pledge to reduce waiting lists and class sizes; "Honest taxation" - not unlike Labour's promise not to increase income tax; and - in contrast to the Labour cards - opposition to the single currency. A freephone number is included for people wanting to join the party.

Tory strategists believe that Labour's cards were crucial in getting its message across. They are considering distributing their own list of pledges as part of the drive to promote a new, modern image for their party.

The move will, however, further infuriate Conservative traditionalists who believe that the party is falling into the hands of modernisers who want to imitate New Labour by putting style over substance. Many back- benchers are angry about the growing use of focus groups, the search for a new, forward-looking logo, and Mr Hague's love of management-consultant- style "bonding" weekends.

The Tories' prototype cards do not make specific pledges of the kind made by Labour, which Conservative spokesmen have consistently ridiculed and claimed the Government has failed to fulfill. Instead they seek to emphasise that the Tory party has changed.