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Asylum protesters force Hague to run for shelter.

Conservative leader Mr William Hague was forced to abandon a walkabout yesterday when he was heckled by protesters opposing his policy on asylum seekers.

Mr Hague was in Edinburgh launching his party's "Save the Pound" campaign when the trouble broke out.

At one point a member of Mr Hague's party became involved in a minor scuffle with one protester who tried to get near to the Tory leader.

Following a rally in Princes Street Gardens, Mr Hague planned to meet supporters gathered to hear his speech but was heckled by the placard- waving protesters.

But he was forced to seek refuge in his party's Scottish headquarters on Princes Street.

Outside, the police ushered away protesters from the building.

One protester, Mr Doug Morgan, said: "The Tory Party is moving more and more to the right and the only people who are going to benefit are the National Front.

"We want to say asylum seekers are welcome but Hague is not."

A Conservative Party spokesman said later: "There was a great atmosphere on Princes Street.

"There was nothing abandoned, it all went exactly to plan. There was very few of them compared to the 280 people who were supporting William Hague.

"There were 20 to 30 people who were making a noise about asylum. I've never been to a rally where there was never any opposition. It's not a problem."

Earlier, Mr Hague warned that the issue of the single currency would be of vital importance at the next General Election. He said his party's policy of ruling out membership of the euro for the duration of the next parliament was likely to be a vote winner.

"We are going to make a crucial decision at the next General Election. If the Labour Party win again they are going to get rid of the pound.

"I want everybody to realise that well before we come to the election."

Mr Hague said the Conservatives' policy was "to be in Europe but not to be in the euro", adding: "The right decision is to be in Europe but not to think that we have to sign up to every idea, particularly when it is a bad idea."

Commenting on rumoured splits within Labour about the single currency, fuelled by recent comments in favour of the euro by Mr Peter Mandelson, Mr Hague said he was convinced Labour were in favour.

He said the main argument was about how to take Britain in rather than whether to do so at all.

Mr Hague said: "There are divisions in the Cabinet but it seems to be about how to talk about [joining the euro]. They are clearly committed in principle to joining the euro."

The Tory leader predicted his policies on Europe, as well as his well- publicised thoughts on law and order and immigration, would prove popular with the electorate.

Referring specifically to Europe, he predicted increased support because there was "only one political party who stands up for the interests of the people" and the Tories were in the ascendancy, not least in Scotland.

On the privately funded referendum on Section 28 - the law banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools - Mr Hague said he was broadly supportive of the poll organised by Stagecoach transport tycoon Mr Brian Souter.
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Author:Tahir, Tariq; Shoesmith, Ian
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 20, 2000
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