Hague adviser quits 'nasty' Tories

Click to follow
Indy Politics

William Hague's hopes of capturing the centre ground of British politics suffered a setback yesterday when Ivan Massow, a millionaire businessman and Conservative Party adviser, defected to Labour.

William Hague's hopes of capturing the centre ground of British politics suffered a setback yesterday when Ivan Massow, a millionaire businessman and Conservative Party adviser, defected to Labour.

Announcing his decision to The Independent, Mr Massow blamed Mr Hague's hard line on gay rights and asylum-seekers and the Tories' plans to cut public spending by £16bn to make room for tax reductions. The Conservatives had become increasingly right-wing, "less compassionate, more intolerant and just plain nasty", he said.

Mr Massow's move comes at a bad time for Mr Hague. After winning public support on asylum, law and order and Europe, the latter was determined to take the fight to Labour on issues including health and education. The defection of such a high-profile figure on the party's left will reopen a simmering debate in Tory circles about their leader's hard-line approach.

In a speech in the United States on Monday, Mr Hague embraced the "compassionate conservatism" of George W Bush, the Republican candidate in the presidential election.

But Mr Massow said: "William Hague has surrendered his principles to the lowest common denominator. Today's Tory policies are simply designed to chime in with the most base values and claw away at national insecurities."

He had held several private meetings with Mr Hague, who encouraged him to seek the Tory nomination for mayor of London, Mr Massow said. But in the event, he became principal policy adviser to the party's candidate, Steven Norris, who, he said, "had the courage to stand up to the bigotry that lies at the heart of the Tory party".

Although Mr Massow said Mr Hague "seemed like a tolerant man who really did want to modernise the Conservative Party", he claimed that his private assurances about the Tories' direction were not matched by his public actions.

Mr Massow, who is gay, accused Mr Hague of showing "weakness" by opposing Labour's moves to scrap Section 28, which bans councils from promoting homosexuality. He said he felt "used" by him, adding: "I trusted him and I was wrong."

Mr Massow said: "The Tories have exploited the asylum issue, just like Section 28, to stir up prejudice and fear. In both cases they ignore the facts and pander to hatred."

Mr Massow, 32, an accountant who was paid £378,000 by his financial services company in 1998, has been a member of the Conservative Party since he was 14. He was on the party's list of approved candidates for the next general election and advised on the campaigns run by Conservative Future, the party's youth wing.

He is unlikely to seek to become a Labour MP, but might advise the Government informally on social exclusion and mental health. Labour sources insisted that he had been given "no promises" of a job.

Senior officials at Labour's Millbank headquarters were tipped off last week that Mr Massow felt uncomfortable in the Tory party. At secret talks with him, Labour officials were surprised to find he was willing to switch sides.

Mr Massow has criticised the Government's plans to ban fox-hunting, which he supports. He is chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Arts and welcomed last week's big increase in the sector's budget. He was worried that the arts would suffer from Tory spending cuts.

Comments