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Hague: A common sense Conservative vision for the future

I congratulate the press on exposing Peter Mandelson's deceptions. In what the Prime Minister calls the broad sweep of history, you have been the dustpan and brush.

Of course, all Governments lose Ministers through scandals. But what makes the current crisis in the Government so very different from kind of problems that afflicted Conservative and Labour Governments in the past is that it goes far deeper than the dishonesty and deceit of one Minister - for at its root cause is the dishonesty and deceit of the New Labour culture that Peter Mandelson helped create, shape, mould and personify.

For like Mandelson , New Labour advances by smearing its opponents.

Like Mandelson, New Labour advances by bullying its critics.

Like Mandelson, New Labour advances by briefing against its own colleagues.

Like Mandelson, New Labour advances by a total disregard for standards of truth and honesty in public life.

Like Mandelson, New Labour advances through a contempt for the past and a contempt for the public. …/ "like Mandelson

HAGUE 187/00

Like Mandelson, New Labour advances by sucking up to the rich and famous.

It is surely the greatest irony that the manner of Peter Mandelson's departure yesterday was in itself the ultimate triumph of the corrosive transformation of the Labour Party which did so much to bring about.

What was the crime that in New Labour's twisted world meant he had to go?

Not lying to the public, because they lie all the time to the public.

Not lying to the media, because their whole operation is built on whispered briefings, half leaks and distorted spin.

Not lying to Parliament, because in the very hour he resigned the Prime Minister was lying to Parliament about £16 billion of Tory cuts.

No - his real crime was that he lied to the Prime Minister's Spin Doctor. That's why he had to go.

His political tombstone will read: here lies Peter Mandelson, a victim of what Peter Mandelson did to the Labour Party.

If only it were a case of goodbye and good riddance. Sadly, it is not.

To begin with, there remain many vital unresolved issues surrounding the Hinduja Passport Affair. Ann Widdecombe has written to Jack Straw asking questions such as:

What do Home Office records show about the content of Peter Mandelson`s conversations with Mike O`Brien in June 1998?

What action did Mike O`Brien take in relation to Mr Hinduja after his telephone conversation with Mr Mandelson?

Why was Mr Hinduja`s naturalisation application decided in six months, rather than the 20-month average for such applications at the time?

Was there any ministerial involvement during the decision-making process on Mr Hinduja`s application? Who made the ultimate decision on the application?

And we've put down written questions in Parliament to find out:

Were any other ministers involved in the Hinduja case directly or indirectly in any way at any stage? In particular, why did Keith Vaz, the Minister for Europe, reportedly write to the Prime Minister and Mr Mandelson on behalf of the Hinduja brothers` applications in 1997? What are the full contents of Mr Vaz`s representations on their behalf?

The Prime Minister`s decision to set up an inquiry under Sir Anthony Hammond QC into the handling of the Hinduja passport application must not become an excuse for delaying straight answers to these questions. Until we know the full facts, the whiff of suspicion will continue to hang over the Government.

We will be unrelenting in our pursuit of these matters and these Ministers. And we will be unrelenting in exposing Peter Mandelson's partner in crime. For while the architect of New Labour may be gone, the man who built New Labour remains the Prime Minister.

And it is not over with the resignation of Peter Mandelson, because the values he represents are still there.

Tony Blair thinks that by sacking him he can distance himself from this affair. What he doesn't realise is that this affair is all about him.

It is all about Tony Blair's appalling error of judgement to reappoint a disgraced Cabinet Minister just because he was a crony.

It is all about the way Tony Blair built his career on the back of his closest ally's dirty work.

It is all about the culture of spin, cronyism, dishonesty, and deceit that pervades all that Tony Blair now does.

Tony Blair famously said Labour would only truly be New Labour when it learned to love Peter. The truth is that New Labour will only truly be dead when the Labour Party learns to stop loving Blair.

But as the next election looms, it is not enough for the Conservative Party to attack Tony Blair and the culture of New Labour. We have to explain how that culture leads to a tangible failure to deliver and we need to show how a Conservative Government offers a real alternative.

Our election campaign will, of course, focus on some very strong and very familiar themes.

Crime. The rise in violent crime, the fall in police numbers, the early release of prisoners will all be messages you will hear again and again through the campaign.

Asylum. Today's figures show that the asylum crisis has as we predicted got worse, not better, since the Government introduced its new asylum laws. Local councils that were spending a few hundred thousand pounds on asylum seekers a few years ago, are now spending tens of millions of pounds on this chaos because of the pathetic weakness of the Government. It will be an election issue.

Europe. I believe that it is a measure of how my Party has come since 1997 that the issue which caused us the greatest problems at the last election will be one of strongest issues at the next election. You can be assured that however hard the Prime Ministers tries not to talk about the euro or claims it is not an issue at the election, in all our campaign literature we will make sure that it is an issue.

And then there is tax. In the next few weeks we will be making a series of major tax announcements that will help millions of families and pensioners and savers who feel they too much tax.

With the announcement this week of our plans to privatise Channel 4, we have completed the process of identifying more than £8 billion of savings on the Government's spending plans.

Michael Portillo and our Treasury team have been explaining in detail to individual newspapers how and where we would save money, and they are happy to discuss the details with any one of you.

Part of the savings come from cutting the cost of Whitehall and clamping down further on fraud. But these are not vague aspirations.

We know how to reduce the cost of Whitehall by £1.8 billion because that is precisely what we were doing at the end of the last Government. Yes it involves tough spending rounds, yes it involves a constant squeeze on running costs, but we know how it can be done.

All politicians promise to be tough on benefit fraud, but we have specific proposals that include implementing the Government's own Scampion Report which they have refused to do and establishing a national Benefit Investigation Squad. And we still conservatively estimate that we will save £1 billion on fraud out of a total of £7 billion.

Cutting costs and tackling fraud are just part of the £8 billion savings. Many of the rest come from policies that I believe are among the most imaginative and radical ever put to the voters by the Conservative Party.

For example, we will begin an endowment revolution in public services that will transform the relationship between the central state and institutions like universities and museums. Universities will be set financially free from a dependence on Treasury handouts and be allowed to go out and attract the very best professors and academics in the world.

We will begin a fundamental change in the culture of our welfare bureaucracy with our Britain Works policy. We are going to let private companies find people work, and pay them by results.

We propose a totally new approach to providing people with security in their retirement. We all know that we have an ageing population, and that in decades to come it's going to be increasingly difficult for states to provide pensioners with a decent income. We're the only Party that is thinking about how we are going to help our future pensioners.

Our policy of letting people who are now under 30 to opt out of the state pension, if they wish, and allowing them to build up a much more generous personal pension will transform the position of elderly people in our society.

It is because of policies like these that will be offering the country one of the most exciting and innovative Manifestos for a generation. The policies contained in our Manifesto are part of a fundamental shift to a smaller state.

Policies like the reform of legal aid that will end means-testing and give everyone fair access to the law; or our reform of student loans that will actually help people from less well-off backgrounds go to university and encourage graduates to consider less well paid professions like teaching or nursing; or our free schools policy, which will all but abolish local education bureaucracy and herald the greatest change in the education system since Rab Butler's Act 57 years ago.

These are not the timid policies of a Party afraid to engage with the voters. What we are offering is a very different society of independent endowed universities and museums, free schools, personal pensions, a welfare system that demands results and a tax system that rewards personal responsibility.

What is on offer at the next election amounts to two very different visions of Britain's future.

First, there is Gordon Brown's vision of the sticking-plaster state where the inadequate state pension is patched up with a Minimum Income Guarantee, where means-testing is the norm, where savings and personal pensions are penalised, where the private health and education sectors are vilified, where more and more families are pulled into welfare, where personal independence is steadily diminished and the controlling tentacles of the state are extended through the tax and benefit system.

Then there is our Conservative vision of a society of responsible, compassionate and free citizens, working hard and saving hard to be independent of the state, a society where we want to encourage independent health providers and personal and occupational pension schemes, where we want to set institutions and families free from Whitehall, where we want to see a great renaissance in charitable giving and voluntary organisations. Not the Sticking Plaster State but a Smaller State and a Responsible Society. A Common Sense Conservative vision of the future.

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