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Drug fines row puts Hague's dilemma in focus; TORIES AT BORNEMOUTH.

THE agitated, anxious, tiny, sparrow-like old lady in a smart jacket approaching delegates at the conference yesterday needed to get a message to William Hague.

"It's important," she said. "That Ann Widdecombe, they say she is being tough on drug dealers. It's no use, they'll just fight back harder. He has to say something about it this afternoon."

She had no chance of course. Security was too tight.

In the event, Mr Hague made only the mildest reference to Miss Widdecombe's flight of fancy about pounds 100 fixed penalty tickets for drugs offences.

"We're going to step up the war against drugs and not surrender to the drugs dealers," he said.

The issue of drugs, which went down badly in chattering class circles, highlights a problem for Mr Hague: how to appease traditional Tory voters while wooing new ones.

He is attempting - much like Tony Blair did before the 1997 election - to broaden the appeal of his party.

Of course Mr Hague's policies are quite different from Mr Blair's. There was a lot of emphasis on the sheer Britishness of Britain yesterday, with comedian Jim Davidson drumming up support for the annual fund-raiser by saying "I'm here for a personal reason - I want my country back."

He criticised Labour for doing away with the annual Royal Tournament and the Royal Navy Field Gun Race. What's next, the Red Arrows?

With a set that looked like a TV game show, he led the razzmatazz while students wearing bright blue T-shirts with the slogan "Give Now Or Pay The Price Later" rattled buckets round the hall to the strains of If I Were A Rich Man.
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Author:Scott, Fiona
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 6, 2000
Words:274
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Next Article:Ready to fight say upbeat Tories; TORIES AT BORNEMOUTH.


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