UK Conservatives 'Ready to Govern'

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

London ( - Presenting his party as a "government in waiting," Conservative Party leader William Hague Thursday challenged Prime Minister Tony Blair to call a general election at any time, saying the Conservatives have shown "beyond doubt" they are ready to govern.

In a keynote address to the party's annual conference in the seaside resort of Bournemouth, Hague painted Blair's Labor cabinet as "divided, arrogant and out of touch" and said Britons have seen through the party and its leader.

"They now look to us to know what the alternative will be. They want to know what drives us, what motivates us, what we would be like in office," Hague said.

Hailing the gathering as "the biggest, the most successful and upbeat Conservative conference for years," he compared it to Labor's conference late last month that was overshadowed by protests on pensions, gas taxes and falling polls.

"Our conference looks like a conference for the future. Their conference looked like a conference from the past," Hague stated.

"We're ready for that election whenever Tony Blair now dares to call it. We're ready for it next autumn, we're ready for it next May, (and) we are ready for it now. Go on Tony, call it now," Hague declared.

Hague reiterated standard Conservative positions on issues such as cutting taxes, fighting crime, safeguarding Britain's independence within Europe and keeping the pound sterling currency.

However, he also continued the more "inclusive" theme that has characterized much of the conference since Monday in a bid to broaden the party's appeal beyond its core supporters to all sectors of society.

"We will govern for hard-working families, we will govern for people of every community and background, (and) we will govern for the mainstream that the Labor Party has ignored. We will govern for all the people," Hague said.

A Conservative government would improve struggling schools and crumbling inner city estates, help pensioners, fight the drug problem and improve health care for citizens most dependent on national health services, he said.

Hague recalled critics who said, after the last election, that the Conservatives would never return to power since "Tony Blair can do no wrong and New Labor will rule forever."

Hague went on to say, "But New Labor was not a philosophy, it was a fashion, and nothing is more unfashionable than a fashion that's out of fashion."

It will be several days yet before new polls show how voters see the newly invigorated Conservative Party after this week's event.

Labor emerged from its conference looking slightly better than when it began but still having lost what many considered an unassailable lead over its main rival, a lead that has been enjoyed by Labor for eight years.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow