ELECTION 2001: MAY 28th 2006: A HORROR TORY: BRITAIN IS DYING; and Hague's in Hiding; Economy in Ruins and Kicked out of EU Jobless at 3 Million, Interest Rates at 15% Civil War in Ireland, Shunned by the World

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Byline: Brian Reade, Mirror man jailed for daring to poke fun at the Tories

THE silence was still deafening from inside Downing Street last night.

For the twelfth consecutive morning Prime Minister William Hague will be absent from the election campaign trail.

He had spent Friday begging the International Monetary Fund to help prop up a pound which had gone into freefall against the euro. On Saturday he was locked in talks with his chiefs of staff and the Irish Taoiseach over the escalating civil war.

Yesterday he summoned the country's police commissioners to order them to step up the use of teargas and rubber bullets, and employ whatever means necessary to quell the riots making no-go areas of our inner cities. Today, no doubt, his sinuses will again keep the Prime Minister in hiding.

Mr Hague always reverts to a blocked nose on the rare days he has no national crisis to blame for his invisibility.

Since the right-wing takeover of his Cabinet a few months after the 2001 election, Hague has presided over a Britain that is dying. Two weeks ago, his five years ran out.

As he called the election, the Tory right-wing grandees - Lord Tebbit, Lord Lamont and Baroness Thatcher - took back the party reins and ordered Hague to disappear.

It wasn't just the Elton John-style ginger hair weave advisers made him have after his personal approval rating plunged to minus 95 per cent during Black Wednesday 2003, which has turned the nation's stomach. Although it didn't help.

The anger in the country runs much deeper. The people are demanding to know why, after five years of Tory rule, this country has gone from being the world's fourth strongest economy with the rosiest economic indicators for a generation, to the world's 20th strongest economy on the brink of financial, social and moral collapse.

Britain is a country torn asunder by fear, terror and misery. A country where the gap between the rich and poor has become a chasm. Where unemployment, interest rates, house repossessions, inflation and bankruptcies are back at record levels.

A disunited kingdom suffering inter-racial strife in England, civil war in Ireland and anti-English revolt in Wales and Scotland after devolution was reversed. It's a country barely recognisable from the Britain of 2001 - outside Europe and treated by the Americans and Japanese as an insignificant island. Even the United Nations, appalled at the Tory record on human rights and civil liberties, is considering expulsion from its ranks.

And all because of that June 7, 2001 when millions of voters assumed a Labour victory was in the bag and never bothered to vote.

So, to quote the words of Prime Minister Hague a mere five years ago, we've gone on a journey to a foreign land because we're now living in a country few of us would recognise.

The 2001 General Election was, at the time, written off as boring and predictable.

John Prescott's left jab was the only entertaining incident.

But to the astonishment of even the Tories, the predicted Labour landslide never materialised and Hague sneaked into power. How the hell did it happen? On Thursday, June 7, 2001 Labour were still well ahead. But other factors came to the fore.

England football team's 5-0 World Cup qualifier win in Greece (Fowler 3, Smith 1, Heskey 1) the night before the election didn't help. Polling day saw unbroken sunshine, which is usually a guarantee of a high Labour turnout.

Instead, millions sat in beer gardens basking in the previous night's victory. Millions more were so sure the country would never elect a grotesque joke like William Hague as Prime Minister, they stayed at home and watched the soaps.

Result: The Tories were three seats short of an overall majority, until four UK Independence Party MPs offered their support. At a price.

If they gave William Hague power he would have to dance to their tune. …