William Hague's clear message: vote Tory, or be ruined
This is no time to indulge in fantasies of a hung Parliament .
William Hague has an apocalyptic message today for our readers, and the whole country. We must choose between “change and ruin”. In an interview with this newspaper he tells us that the forthcoming general election is our chance - our only chance - to get rid of Gordon Brown. This is no time to punish mainstream political parties with votes for fringe groups or to indulge in fantasies of a hung Parliament.
It emerged some time ago that David Cameron would deploy Mr Hague in the election campaign as his effective deputy. Perhaps the timing is coincidental, but it is interesting that the shadow foreign secretary, a famously plain-speaking Yorkshireman, should be delivering his message at the same time that the Prime Minister bared his soul in an interview with Piers Morgan (to be broadcast tomorrow) during which he dwelt at length on his romance with his wife and spoke frankly about family tragedies.
We should say immediately that Mr Brown and his wife have shown courage in dealing with the death of one child and the serious illness of another. We do not criticise him for talking about these things, any more than we would criticise David Cameron for talking about the death of his own son. But, generally speaking, this sort of interview is not a healthy sign: politicians who invite questions about their emotional lives are nearly always facing political crisis and reaching out for a sympathy vote. Mr Cameron should resist the temptation to follow suit.
Mr Hague’s interview is calculated, too: every major interview between now and the election will have been at least partly choreographed by strategists. It, too, betrays undercurrents of anxiety: the Tories are understandably rattled to find themselves with only single-figure poll leads in the dying days of one of the most unpopular governments in living memory. But, be that as it may, we suspect Conservative voters will be reassured by what Mr Hague has to say.
They will be pleased to see one of the most popular and trusted Conservative politicians pulled back into the front line of domestic politics. Moreover, he uses the interview to express an electoral reality that the Tories have been too slow to acknowledge. Conservative sympathisers and others who want to get rid of Mr Brown and his Cabinet must vote Tory. Indeed, says Mr Hague, “we only win a majority in the House of Commons if a large number of people vote Conservative who have never voted Conservative. It’s not as if there is a large lump of Tory voters who are waiting to return.” It is appropriate to hear such talk from Mr Hague: his popularity has been transformed since his own stint as Leader of the Opposition, and he is now one of the few frontbenchers who can persuade non-Tories to break the habit of a lifetime and vote Conservative.
“Change or ruin” might seem a melodramatic way of expressing the dilemma facing the electorate. But Mr Hague is a historian as well as a politician, and this perspective enables him to see with some clarity how far down the path to decline Britain has moved in the past few years of Labour government. As he puts it, we are “hurtling towards a position in the world that is dramatically more minor than that [which] Mrs Thatcher presided over and Tony Blair was happy to exploit.” In fact, so dire is the situation that the Labour Party might be relieved not to have to deal with the “terrible stinking mess they have created”.
But someone has to and, as Mr Hague insists, that someone must be David Cameron. This solution is only possible, however, if voters pass up the pointless luxury of a protest vote. A national debt of £780 billion requires a fresh government with a parliamentary majority – and a comfortable one at that.