Hurd plays at centre-right in a game of spot-the-difference

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Indy Politics
Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary and father-philosopher of One-Nation Toryism, tried to reassert the ideological differences between the Conservative Party and "new" Labour in a lecture last night.

Rejecting the idea that Tony Blair had taken over the centre ground of politics, he said: "For most of us engaged in politics, the notions of left and right, with their distinctive and competing ideas of justice, remain important and relevant."

Setting out the central themes which he believes still distinguish the "centre right" from the "left of centre", Mr Hurd highlighted free trade, incentives and the handing of more power to citizens.

He claimed that although "around the world, the left is busy trying to reinvent itself", it still tended to look to the state rather than individual initiative.

Acting on his own recent advice to Conservatives that they had to "repel boarders", Mr Hurd focused on attitudes to incentives and efficiency. "For centre-right parties like the Conservative Party, that must mean keeping taxes as low as is compatible with effective public services." He cited privatisation, but also "the internal market in health, the use of competitive tendering and market testing".

He accused Mr Blair of dodging the tough decisions. "Anyone can pay lip service to economic efficiency, value for money and a flourishing private sector. The words trip off Mr Blair's tongue. But politicians also have to will the means," Mr Hurd said.

It was no use just listening to "the dawn chorus of pressure groups on the Today programme", he added. "It will mean facing down the special pleading of the interest groups which Labour courts."