Parliament: Tory Reform: Hague: Reject Major's vision

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The Independent Online
WILLIAM HAGUE will today urge his party to reject John Major's vision of "old Britain" to broaden the Conservatives' appeal to a new generation.

The Tory leader will dismiss Mr Major's 1993 statement that in 50 years' time, Britain would still be "the country of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog-lovers and pools fillers".

Yesterday Mr Hague told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I don't like warm beer. We always drink cold beer where I come from."

Tonight in a lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Hague will say: "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 that have always been Britain. But also the ambitious, the bold, the brassy, the vigorous, the exciting, the leading world nation that we are and can be."

Mr Hague will argue that the Tories can no longer rely on defeating Labour solely on the economy, as they did in the 1980s. "We will have to win the battles over generosity, charity, compassion, tolerance, fairness, social institutions, community. It will be as big a challenge as anything we faced in the 1970s."

Mr Hague's "modernise or die" message to his party will be coupled with his strongest attack on the "constitutional vandalism" of the Government's plans to reform the voting system and devolve power to Scotland and Wales.

He will say that Tony Blair "is holding a dagger at the heart of what it is to be British. If he is left to carry on unchecked, he will drive it right through that heart."

Mr Hague will warn: "People will wake up and find themselves living in what feels to be a different country - with an alien voting system and Parliament and an overmighty state."

Margaret Beckett, the leader of the Commons, yesterday proposed that MPs be banned from making personal attacks on members of the new Scottish and Welsh assemblies, in the hope of ensuring "harmonious relations" between Westminster and the new bodies.