William Hague and the 2001 General Election

Keep Britain Foreign – Vote anti-Tory

by Gwydion M Williams

Just when you thought it wasn’t worth voting, Hague and Portillo remind you how much worse things could get. With no enthusiasm for New Labour, I’d still advise anyone who can to vote against Hague’s Tories, for whichever candidate has the best chance of winning in the particular seat.

Had things gone Kenneth Clerk’s way, it would be different. Major and Heseltine and Clerk realised that the Thatcher thing had run its course and that any more would be totally destructive. Hague thinks just the opposite – too much of society survived Thatcher and is in urgent need of demolition. And at the same time, people are blamed for not respecting traditional social values.

William Hague seems to resent all the changes that have since the 1960s. Does he realise he’d have had zero chance of advancing to high office in the Tory Party as it was them? Did Thatcher? I do believe that both of them were too vain to see it. Not capable of understanding how the traditional elite would have viewed them before it got so desperate it would try anything.

I’ve said before that the US republicans work by tapping into racist feeling without being formally racists or losing the majority who would find formal racism unacceptable. Maybe someone in Tory planning reads my articles, certainly it’s hard to see what else Hague was after in his infamous ‘foreign Britain’ speech.

By mixing two issues, the ‘foreign threat’ regarding the currency, and then ‘bogus asylum seekers’, Hague came as close as he dared to reactivating Tory racism. Immigration has long ceased to be significant, but this and now ‘bogus asylum seekers’ serve as a proxy for rejecting Britain’s non-white minorities.

How to appeal to racists and not lose the non-white vote? The US republicans just about pulled it off, Hague seems to have just angered anti-racists and alarmed minorities without gathering in any racist votes the Tories don’t already have.

I also did say it was pointless trying to win a British election by appealing to the prejudices of the US electorate. Britain since the 1950s has become a lot broader and more tolerant, ready to accept a lot of foreign ways. Look in the average supermarket. Britain is already moderately foreign, and getting better all the time.

‘Keep Britain Foreign’ would have been an impossible slogan 30 years ago. Now it’s merely eccentric, and like many once-radical ideas it looks set to become mainstream opinion in another generation or two.

Meantime Portillo had been toying with a kinder, gentler lunacy. But has now swung back to New Right fundamentals, wanting tax cuts that would mostly benefit the rich. It seems he really does believe that money legally earned in a complex society is somehow nothing to do with that society, or with the state that keeps it in being.

Thatcher’s talk about ‘rolling back the state’ was just talk. Good enough to get the lorry drivers voting Tory, but never serious. Business interests know the value of state power, they just want to have more of the benefits and les of the costs, which Thatcher did indeed give them.

First published in Labour & Trade Union Review.  Written shortly before the General Election of 2001, when William Hague was Tory leader.  One of the worst Prime Ministers we fortunately never had.

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