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Hague - vote to burst Blair's bubble

Campaigning in Fulham, the Rt Hon William Hague, Conservative Party Leader:

"We are entering the final week of the election campaign.

"Elections are normally a celebration of democracy. But be in no doubt - this election could produce a devastating blow to British democracy.

"If Labour win at all, they will use every trick, spend every sum, fix every vote to ensure the elimination of our currency and the end of a thousand years of British independence.

"If Labour win by the landslide which Alastair Campbell has arrogantly taken for granted, they will further marginalize Parliament, manipulate the media, and seek to suppress all dissent or disagreement with them. The brakes will be off for what has already been the most arrogant, aggressive and intimidatory Government in modern history. The voice of the moderate majority in this country who differ from them will be first ignored and then silenced.

"Voters here in London have already seen the consequences of Labour's control freakery. Mr Blair tried to hand-pick a Mayor for London, and rigged his own internal election to get the candidate he wanted. That triggered a rebellion by London voters against being taken for granted, and helped the Conservative Party beat Labour in the London elections a year ago.

"Once again we will be inviting voters in London and elsewhere to burst Mr Blair's bubble of complacency.

"So the Conservative Party will be using these final five days to fight for what we believe. With millions of voters still to be wooed, this Election is far from over.

"Our candidates right across the country report that the reaction from voters is far better than it was in 1997, and far better than the opinion polls say. We will be fighting flat out from now until 10 pm on Thursday to get every possible voter into the Conservative camp. Every extra Conservative MP elected will be another standard-bearer for the common sense of the British people. Every Labour or Liberal Democrat MP from the last Parliament we unseat will be one less politically correct elitist seeking to impose minority obsessions on the tolerant but long-suffering majority.

"And every day that our support continues to build it becomes clearer and clearer that we can win this Election outright, and produce a Conservative Government which will govern with the grain of British tolerance, moderation and patriotism and not against it.

"If there is one thing more unacceptable than Labour's smug assumption that the public adore them, it is their abysmal performance on the public services and belief that they can spin their way out of being held to account for that.

"Public service professionals have been bullied, cowed and insulted by this Government. They have been buried under bureaucracy and pestered by paperwork. Their trained, experienced judgement has been second-guessed and criticised time and again by Ministers who have been wholly unqualified to do any such thing. And then they have been blamed by Labour for the resulting deterioration in our public services.

"Mr Blair lives in a Pollyanna world where every hospital he visits smells of new paint and where every school he sees has a headteacher who supports Labour. What he needs to do is get out into the real world he and his policies have created.

"In Britain under Labour patients know that they are having to wait longer in Casualty than they did four years ago. In Britain under Labour schools have operated a four-day week because of the crisis in teaching. In Britain under Labour violent crime is soaring while police numbers have been slashed and tens of thousands of convicted criminals are let out of prison months before the end of their sentence, many to go on to offend again.

"In Britain under Labour more than four out of five family doctors are contemplating resigning from the NHS out of sheer fury and frustration. In Britain under Labour police officers, teachers and nurses walking out of their jobs as our vital public servants vote with their feet.

"In Britain under Labour our countryside is in utter despair, while our inner cities are awash with rising drug abuse, more homelessness and a big rise in poverty.

"In Britain under Labour our asylum system is in chaos, and subject to widespread abuse which harms the interests of genuine refugees and allows criminal racketeers to play the system.

"In Britain under Labour, the Home Secretary is jeered by the Police Federation, and the Health Secretary is so unpopular with nurses that he dare not make a speech to the Royal College of Nursing.

"So my message is simple. If you want a debate about the public services, fine and good. You have destroyed morale in those public services by your interference, undermined their performance with your bureaucracy and blocked commonsense with your political correctness. Four more years of Labour would be four more years of abject failure to improve our health care, our schools or the safety of our streets.

"But of course Mr Blair doesn't want a debate about anything at all. Throughout this campaign he has run away from a TV debate with me. The broadcasters put forward perfectly fair proposals. I've accepted them. Mr Blair has turned them down. And that alone shows that he knows his case is weak and his performance in office is simply indefensible.

"So who will hold Mr Blair to account? It certainly won't be the Liberal Democrats. Time and again over the last four years they have themselves to be unworthy of the term 'opposition'. They are a wasted voted. With no hope of winning power in their own right, they have been reduced to a branch office of a discredited government.

"On Friday we saw fuel protestors returning to our streets and to oil refineries.

"Blockades are wrong, but protest is wholly understandable. The place to register that protest is in the ballot box on Thursday. Those who want and need lower fuel taxes can get them by voting Conservative.

"Mr Blair and Mr Brown inherited petrol prices which were the fourth cheapest in Europe. They have taken petrol tax up and up to the point where our petrol in now the most expensive in Europe. Our hauliers, motorists and businesses are all suffering. "That's why we'll cut tax on both petrol and diesel in our very first Budget by 6p a litre, that's 27p a gallon.

"Conservatives recognise that there is no point punishing people for using their car when there is not a good public transport alternative.

"Under Labour London's Tube has staggered from crisis to crisis. Tomorrow's strike may have been called off at the last minute, but no commuters will believe that a continuation of Labour's policies after Thursday will mean anything other than further chaos and deterioration. Conservatives promise a pragmatic solution. We will work with, not against, Bob Kiley and we will put performance before spin.

"Moving around London and moving around the country has become a punishing experience for millions. On Thursday people should punish those responsible. John Prescott should be given more time to play with his two Jags.

"And on Thursday people should reflect on the record of a Government that promised it would be 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'.

"Today Britain is losing the war against crime. On Friday we can begin the fightback.

"We will reverse Labour cuts in police numbers and put more police on streets. We will also hold on to the police we already have by making sure they no longer feel they have one hand tied behind their back.

"With the Conservatives police will be allowed to police. They will get the political backing they need instead of political correctness. They will have a criminal justice system that frightens criminals not one that bewilders their victims.

"We will win back the trust of the public in the forces of law and order, not try to silence their anger, because the Conservatives are prepared to walk the walk, not just talk the talk about being tough on crime.

"I promise you this, no one will hit crime harder than we will.

"Some commentators have claimed that as polling day nears I would stop talking about the need to keep the pound. Well, they're wrong. Because here goes.

"Keeping the pound is central to this Election not because it's an alternative to caring about public services - but precisely because good public services depend on getting this decision right.

"Scrapping the pound would cost a staggering £36 billion. That's not my figure - that's the estimate of the City accountancy firm Chantrey Vellacott. A few days ago Gordon Brown claimed that the Chantrey Vellacott estimate is untrue. In that case he should tell us what the true figure is.

"Because that £36 billion is the equivalent of £55 million in each constituency in the country. It is the equivalent of paying for a new Millennium Dome every month for the next three years.

"So where would Brown and Blair find the public sector's share of that £36 billion? Higher taxes, less public spending or both? And where would business find its share? Lower profits, lower investment and lower receipts to the Treasury, that's where.

"So just the transition costs would be a big blow to the public services. Already NHS Trusts are being forced to divert millions of pounds from patient care in order to prepare for a currency which the British people do not want. So the next time we hear about an operation delayed or a patient stuck on a trolley remember that Mr Blair thinks his European dream matters more than getting proper treatment for people in pain.

"But it doesn't stop there, of course.

"Going into the Euro would mean that our interest rates would be set outside this country, by other countries naturally for their benefit. So those interest rates would be set at a level that were almost always wrong for Britain. That was our experience when we were in the ERM. Conservatives have learned from that mistake - Labour and the Lib Dems want to repeat it.

"Setting the wrong interest rate for Britain puts economic stability and British jobs at risk. Those problems will hit the public services just as much as homeowners, businesses and pensioners. So our public services could find their own costs escalating just at a time when a recession in other countries could hit Treasury income - requiring cutbacks in investment in those public services.

"We could not spend the money we want to spend to improve our schools and hospitals if our economy was not earning the money in the first place. So we now have a Prime Minister who says he wants to put our public services first, when in fact his obsession with scrapping the Pound would put them last behind the whims of bankers in Frankfurt. But the single currency is about a great deal more than just economics, of course.

"It is a political project first and foremost. Its creators designed it to be a major building block in the creation of a European state with a European government.

"My view, and that of the vast moderate mainstream majority in this country, is that we should be in Europe, not run by Europe.

"We do not want a European Army. We will not accept a European legal system. We will not take part in the European currency. We will return to this country control over aspects of agriculture, fisheries and overseas aid policies. We will block European interference in our defence, tax or social security systems.

"We offer friendship, partnership and alliance to our European neighbours. We will work actively to strengthen NATO, to enlarge the European Union and to create a genuine Single Market. But we will not accept the abolition of the United Kingdom's right to govern itself.

"These are the sensible views of the vast majority of people in this country.

"My message in these closing days is simple.

"If you are part of the mainstream majority:

• who want to set our public servants free from red tape and political correctness;

• who want just a little given back in tax cuts to hardworking families, pensioners, savers and motorists;

• who want European friendship but not a European currency;

• who are fed up with the arrogance, spin and smugness of this Government;

"then lend us your votes on Thursday.

"If you are among the many millions that want to clip Mr Blair's wings or sling Mr Blair out altogether, you can only wipe the smile off his face by voting Conservative.

"This Thursday you will have your chance."

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