Exclusive: Classless battle ahead as William Hague leads the way

William Hague.
William Hague.
Have your say

WILLIAM Hague has given a rallying defence of the Conservative’s election chances as he prepares to lead the key seats battle.

The former Foreign Secretary has revealed he thinks the Tory party should draw inspiration from the 1992 General Election as it seeks to push ahead of Labour .

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, the Richmond MP said the Tories will face down Labour’s class warfare election campaign, arguing that “no one knows what class they are any more”.

Mr Hague is due to step down as an MP after the 2015 General Election, but until then he has been tasked by Prime Minister David Cameron with winning the fight in marginal and key seats across the country.

That role will see him go head to head with Ukip in many constituencies – a party Mr Hague says are simply nothing like the modern Conservative party.

With only one poll showing the Tories are ahead, Mr Hague has insisted there is still the opportunity for a Tory majority.

He said: “It is a big task, but it is completely do-able. Polls are not even pretending to be a forecast of the future. If you look at opinion polls eight months before the last election they were very different to the actual outcome, by a factor of about ten per cent.

“The ship is steadier than it might be, Conservative MPs are quite upbeat. We all regard it as one that could go either way.

“This is the election most like that since 1992. The Labour party has an in-built advantage, but even with that, if someone said four years ago you will have to take all these painful economic decisions and yet eight months before the election be just a few points behind, we would say that is not bad going. And so yes, we can look at 1992 as how it can be done.”

Part of Mr Hague’s task will be seeing off Labour’s claims that the Conservative party is not on the side of ordinary families, a task he appears to relish.

“I’m neither conscious of nor care what class people are, I wonder, do most people even know what class they belong to now?

“It is really only the Labour party in elections that try to create a class card, to create resentment against someone like David Cameron, because that is what it is about, an attempt to create resentment, to get at someone because of their education.

“But actually, what we know is you don’t have to have been to Eton to be a Prime Minister or a Tory leader.

“Look at John Mayor, Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher, all went to state schools. Well, okay, so we now have one man who went to Eton, should he be excluded for that reason?

“It would be ridiculous. I think we’re a very meritocratic party. We are actually putting in the investment in the North of England, the Northern hub, the plans for a Northern powerhouse.”

Mr Hague’s other big threat comes from Ukip, with the latest research showing the Tories face five key battle grounds with Nigel Farage’s party, alongside a further six where a Ukip vote could see the Tories lose a seat to Labour.

Vote analysis by the Fabian Society also warned that Ukip poses a danger to Labour’s 2015 hopes and, left unchecked, could threaten to pull apart the party and challenge it in large swathes of its heartland territory.

Mr Hague said he believed Ukip could be beaten at a General Election, when voters are more focused on having their say rather than making a protest.

He added: “We don’t need to change as a result of Ukip, we are doing the right things. We don’t change our policy based on Mark Reckless, I’m not sure how anyone can ever trust a man like that.

“What voters will realise is there is not going to be a Ukip Government, ever, and with a Labour Government you will not get a referendum.”

Asked about electoral pact with Ukip, he said: “No, they are not a party we agree with at all. They are not a serious party, we could not have a pact with them. We see a pact with the voters offering a Conservative referendum on Europe.”

Mr Hague’s new role comes after he brought to an end his time in the Foreign office, a decision he says he has no regrets over.

“I’ll miss a lot of friends around the world, but I was quite clear I wanted to step down after 26 years in parliament next year. I view it now as finishing off where I started.

“I built my reputation or career speaking in parliament and campaigning around the country, and that is what I will be doing at the end, I feel I am coming home in a sense, and am lot of that will be in the North of England.

“I will always keep a home in North Yorkshire.”

* The Conservative candidate for Mr Hague’s seat will be announced on October 18.