Labour uses beer mats to contrast local achievements with 'Tory froth'

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Indy Politics

He has been called Billy the Kidder, Billy Liar, even Billy He Drinks Like a Fish. Yesterday, however, William Hague, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, earned a new name: Billy the Beer Mat.

He has been called Billy the Kidder, Billy Liar, even Billy He Drinks Like a Fish. Yesterday, however, William Hague, Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, earned a new name: Billy the Beer Mat.

Mr Hague's now infamous claims to have drunk 14 pints of bitter a day in his youth are to receive top billing in a new Labour campaign attacking the Tories this summer.

Beer mats highlighting the Tory leader's allegedly awesome alcohol tolerance will be appearing in pubs and bars throughout the land, John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced yesterday.

One side of the mats will show 14 pint mugs and the slogan "Tory froth". The other will give details of the Government's work on health, education and other policies in the pub's constituency.

The campaign is intended to build on what Labour sees as ridicule sparked by Mr Hague's claims in a men's magazine that, in his teens, he downed 14 pints daily during a summer job as a brewery drayman.

The Tory leader's drinking exploits received further attention yesterday when a schoolfriend claimed he had celebrated his 18th birthday with 32 rum and Cokes.

Launching Labour's campaign, Mr Prescott said the purpose of the beer mats, which are being sent to all Labour MPs across the country to distribute, was to remind drinkers of the difference between the two main parties.

"One way up you can see the substance of Labour's policies. Turn it over and all you have is Tory froth," Mr Prescott told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost.

A Labour Party spokesman said the mats would be a means of getting the party's message into "one of the places where people actually talk about politics".

He added: "They're lightweight, cardboard cut-outs and a bit wet at the edges. Just like Mr Hague."

Lord Bassam, the Home Office minister, failed to see the funny side of Mr Hague's stories of teenage excess and attacked him for encouraging football hooliganism.

"The thing about 14 pints of lager or 32 rum and Cokes, or whatever, [is that] it seems to me to be somewhat at odds at a time when we are trying to discourage abuse of alcohol, which clearly leads to violence on the streets when it comes to football," Lord Bassam told BBC Radio 5 Live. The National Criminal Intelligence Service has said that the new football season could be the most violent seen for many years.

Tory chairman Michael Ancram said Mr Hague had not been promoting drunkenness or boasting about his drinking, but simply being "open and frank." He told Breakfast with Frost: "This arose out of his being asked how he had conducted his life as a young man.

"People asked, 'was he always with his head in political books and Hansard?'

"He was saying he had a broader life than that. I think most of us would look back at our time as a student and say, 'That was then, but we don't necessarily do that now.'"

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