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Hague: Reality bites Blair

In a speech to Party activists in Peterborough today, the Rt Hon William Hague, Leader of the Conservative Party:

"The events of yesterday marked a turning point in this campaign. It was the day when reality began to intrude into this Election. After weeks and months of pundits and pollsters telling us that the result is a foregone conclusion, that Tony Blair will cruise to a second term, that in any case this Election doesn't matter, the spell has been broken.

Yesterday was the day that Labour found out reality bites. For the first time, Mr Blair has come face to face with real people. All the careful choreography and stage management in the world cannot shield him from the deep anger and disappointment they feel.

For the first time, the real people have seen the real face of New Labour when things begin to slip from their control. It is not a pretty sight.

It began with the launch of Labour's manifesto. A solemn pledge to keep in ten years the promises Tony Blair has broken over the last four years. It should have been called Paradise Postponed. Its vague hints of more meddling in our public services and uncosted commitments have a familiar ring. 44 pages, 28,000 words of meaningless promises and new stealth taxes. Never have so many trees died for so little.

As the glossy package was unwrapped, the day began to unravel. Reality intruded. Labour spin doctors offered to call on journalists to ask the Prime Minister questions, but only if they agreed to ask him the right questions. Seasoned broadcasters were to be reduced to the role of supine Labour backbenchers in a new form of Prime Minister's Question Time. Understandably they revolted.

Then Prime Minister came face to face with the voice of the real people he has thus far so studiously avoided. The people I meet. People who feel fed up and betrayed by a Party which promised them things could only get better. Fed up with a Party which has delivered only higher taxes and worse public services.

Sharron Storer would not be bought off by Mr Blair's soundbites. This is hardly surprising given the reality she faces. Like tens of thousands of others with friends and families waiting long and painful months for hospital treatment, she wanted to know why her partner, a cancer sufferer, was receiving such appalling treatment.

Then Jack Straw came face to face with real world at the Police Federation conference in Blackpool. He was received warmly, though not in the way he expected. He was confronted with the genuine anger of men and women whose numbers have been cut, whose morale has been sapped and who are being asked to wage the war against crime with one arm tied behind their backs. Like Tony Blair, Jack Straw found that he could not spin his way out of accounting for the last four years.

Even Peter Mandelson, the architect of New Labour, found that his powers of persuasion had deserted him. Asked about his attempts to destabilise the Labour's Election effort and his whispering campaign against his old adversary Gordon Brown he simply walked out of his television interview.

As for the Deputy Prime Minister's brush with reality, the less said about that the better.

It has taken four years for the mask to slip, but the British public now sees New Labour for what they really are, a gigantic hoax puffed up by arrogance, contempt and vanity.

Arrogant because they insult people's intelligence. They say the NHS is getting better when everyone can see that waiting times are longer. They say that schools are improving when everyone knows that class sizes are bigger. They say that taxes are coming down when everyone can feel that they are going up. They say they are winning the war against crime when everyone fears to walk down their own streets and feels less safe in their own homes.

They say they have ambitions for Britain when their one ambition is to give away our independence piece by piece.

They are contemptuous because they dislike the people they lead and the country they run. Values like patriotism, responsibility and a desire to be independent of government are mocked and ignored. They prefer to listen to trendy opinion rather than the common sense of the British people.

They are vain because they are obsessed by their own self-image and consumed with fighting among themselves rather than getting to grips with the real problems this country faces. The only lesson Labour will have drawn from yesterday was that it 'looked bad' not that it was bad.

That is why they will never learn. That is why so many voters are disillusioned and cynical about politics. That is why Labour are condemned to repeat the endless spin cycle of meaningless promises, a failure to deliver and higher taxes no matter how many chances the British people give them.

This is the bigger reality.

It is why we must redouble our efforts to show our country that not all parties are the same, to fight for every last vote in this Election, to make clear to everyone what it is the Conservatives stand for.

To tell them that we will cut taxes to help savers, retired people and married couples with children, and that we will cut fuel duty by 27p a gallon.

To tell them that we will offer discipline, standards and choice in our classrooms by allowing headteachers to run schools and making them accountable to parents rather than politicians.

To tell them that we will hit crime hard, put the victim before the criminal and allow the police to get on with the job of enforcing the law.

To tell them that only the Conservatives can save the Pound and that this will be the last chance to vote to keep our own currency. To tell them that we stand for something more than just ourselves, that we believe in the values of freedom, responsibility and a sense of what unites us as a nation.

Do all these things and Britain will have a Government that is worthy of the nation it leads.

Do all these things and we will deliver the final reality.

A Conservative victory on June 7th."

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