Memos reveal a Napoleon-like Blair, says Hague

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William Hague sought to exploit the Government's embarrassment over a series of leaked memos yesterday, likening the Prime Minister's leadership to that of Napoleon.

William Hague sought to exploit the Government's embarrassment over a series of leaked memos yesterday, likening the Prime Minister's leadership to that of Napoleon.

The Tory leader, reading out several parts of the confidential documents, claimed Philip Gould had been "spot on" in his analysis of Tony Blair's failings. "Winston Churchill did not ask for blood, sweat and 'eye-catching initiatives'," he said during question time.

But Mr Blair said the Conservatives' planned £16bn of cuts to public spending were the nearest thing to committing "political hara-kiri" ever undertaken by a political leader.

To loud Labour cheers, he said the dividing line for the next election had been set, with his party willing to invest in public services and the Tories looking to make cuts.

However, Mr Hague said: "Two years ago the Government announced £21bn, which they said would transform the NHS. Since then the waiting list for the waiting list has grown by 150,000 and we now learn there were fewer heart bypass operations last year than for 25 years.

"Isn't it a disgrace that you are commissioning memos ludicrously entitled 'Getting the right place in history,' - even Napoleon didn't commission memos called that! - when many people are struggling to get the right place in hospital thanks to the incompetence of your administration?

"Wasn't the adviser who wrote, 'TB has not delivered. He said he would improve the NHS but instead things have got worse,' absolutely spot on?"

Mr Blair said he was not surprised that the Opposition leader preferred to talk about the memos, rather than this week's Spending Review.

"Let me tell you what the first CSR [Comprehensive Spending Review] delivered in the health service: 38 new hospital developments under way, over 6,000 more qualified nurses, 5,000 more doctors, every accident and emergency department modernised."

He challenged Mr Hague to say "what £16bn worth of spending cuts would deliver".

Mr Hague replied: "You've talked about tens of billions of pounds for years and things have got worse. As the same adviser told you, 'We've not proved strong enough to get enough done'. You paid thousands of pounds of the Labour Party's money to get that advice. Some of us read it for 30p in The Sun!"

He added: "We will set out our own plans on public spending and they will include the reform of the welfare state, which you so pitifully ran away from. If you think you are going to spend £16bn more than a Conservative government, you'd better work out what £16bn of additional tax rises you are going to levy.

"You said you would be tough on crime ... and wasn't your trusted adviser who wrote, 'TB and his Government are soft on crime,' absolutely spot on?"

Mr Blair responded: "You said you were going to publish your spending cuts plan ... The Conservative research department have already published it this morning ... saying the revenue gap, £16bn, and they have helpfully set it out region by region. The North West, £1.7bn; Yorkshire and Humber, £1.2bn; the Midlands, £2bn; London, £1.8bn. So we know where your spending cuts are going to fall and every one of your MPs is going to have to answer to it."

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