Hague promises to slay `arrogant' Blair

Andrew Grice@IndyPolitics
Tuesday 21 September 1999 23:02

WILLIAM HAGUE condemned the "arrogance" of Tony Blair's Government last night as he mounted a strong personal attack on the Prime Minister.

The Tory leader sought to exploit signs that voters are starting to become disenchanted with Labour and impatient for it to deliver its promises to improve public services. Labour officials have warned Mr Blair that the Government is increasingly seen as "arrogant".

Mr Hague told a Tory dinner: "This Government is a tax-raising, intervening, interfering, bossy, high-spending, over-regulating, trade union-funded, crony-run, hypocritical, amoral, arrogant Labour Government that is doing great damage to our country - just like every other Labour Government we have ever had."

He said it was time to slay the myth that Mr Blair's administration was not as bad as previous Labour governments, or that it was a Tory one in disguise. He accused Mr Blair of taking the slightest credit for the Government's actions, while he was "nowhere to be seen" when problems emerged. "He has lived long enough, politically, on his promises; now it is time to slay him with his record."

Mr Hague's attack will worsen the relationship of the two party leaders, already strained by Tory attacks on the Government's handling of the Northern Ireland peace process, which have infuriated Mr Blair.

Mr Hague was speaking at a dinner at London's Dorchester Hotel, where the guests included Margaret Thatcher and Michael Portillo.

Despite tension between Mr Hague and Mr Portillo, the Tory leader gave a fillip to his efforts to become Tory candidate in the forthcoming Kensington and Chelsea by-election. He said Mr Portillo was "a good colleague who we all want back in the front line of politics."

Mr Blair also faced criticism from inside Labour's ranks yesterday when the party's National Executive Committee discussed the agenda for next week's Labour conference in Bournemouth.

It emerged that trade unions and constituency activists may succeed in their attempts to win emergency debates on issues which would embarrass the Government, including plans to commercialise the Post Office and partially privatise Britain's air traffic control service.

There may also be a debate on public services, in which leftwingers would call for the pounds 10bn "war chest" at the Treasury's disposal to be spent on improving services rather than tax cuts. This would directly oppose the strategy of Mr Blair and the Chancellor, who plan to increase spending and cut taxes before the general election.

t Labour's NEC has withdrawn an invitation to Nana Sutresna, the Indonesian ambassador to Britain, to attend the Bournemouth conference because of events in East Timor.

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