'I like what you say, so I'll say the same'

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The Independent Online
The politics may be diverging, but the language is almost identical, writes Stephen Castle. Alan Duncan, William Hague's campaign manager, gave it away when he chose one of Peter Mandelson's favourite terms to describe the Tories' task in rebuilding their party. It was, he said, "the project". Nor was this an isolated instance. Labour politicians were struck by the use of language and the themes which Mr Hague used in his speech accepting the leadership, made in Conservative Central Office on Thursday evening. There are many elements in common with Tony Blair's leadership statement, "Change and National Renewal", and his acceptance speech at the Institute of Education made in July 1994.

For one, there was the emphasis on rebuilding the party machinery, which Mr Hague said on Thursday must become the "most potent political machine in this country". He added: "Be prepared for some changes in this party because the way we conduct ourselves is going to change." Change was a buzz word for Mr Blair in his acceptance speech: "Look at how we have changed." Mr Blair's leadership statement spelled out a similar message that "A healthy party organisation is the starting point for electoral success. Without a radical and vibrant party, there will be no radical and vibrant government."

Both political leaders saw the basis of this in increased party membership. Mr Hague called for the membership to double, joking that half the increase should be made up of members younger than the 36-year-old leader. Mr Blair, who also had called for a doubling of Labour membership, said in his leadership statement: "We must use this opportunity to recruit many more thousands of members. More members mean more activists and more activity - more people not just to be involved in local parties but to serve their communities."

Both men stressed the need to look forward, not backwards. Mr Hague said on Thursday: "Let's look forward, not back. Let's pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and return to the future." In 1994 Mr Blair said: "For our generation and our time, Labour must exist not only to defend the gains of the past, but to forge a new future." From Mr Hague there was also the familiar Blairite emphasis on hard decisions and tough choices which needed to be made: "If I have to, I will put some noses out of joint. If I have to, I will make myself unpopular for a time."

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