Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hague's Final Assault as Poll Gap Narrows

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hague's Final Assault as Poll Gap Narrows

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK HENNESSY

This time the butler really did do it IT WAS not the first time the people of St Helens had seen a butler in the wake of would-be Labour MP Shaun Woodward.

At the start of the Tory defector's campaign to win the safe Labour seat, the Daily Mail sent a spoof manservant to follow Mr Woodward - much to his annoyance. But the man pictured blowing up Labour balloons in the town centre really is Mr Woodward's butler, despite the multimillionaire's earlier assertion that he had no such employee.

Ben Limberg, 28, was assisting as a "volunteer" in the campaign, said Mr Woodward's wife, Sainsbury heiress Camilla. This was the first time Mrs Woodward, whose personal fortune is estimated at [pound]100 million, had decided to support her husband publicly - although she described herself as "entirely anonymous", adding: "I am here as a volunteer to help Shaun because I believe in what he is doing. The fact that I am married to him is irrelevant. I do not think it is appropriate to be interviewed." However, she did say of St Helens: "It's a great place. The media portrayal of it is just so patronising."

Londoner's Diary: Page 12 WILLIAM HAGUE today embarked on one last push to head off a Tony Blair landslide as he urged voters to end four years of Labour arrogance and broken promises.

On the final day of campaigning, the Tory leader invoked the "forces of Conservatism" - publicly scorned by the Prime Minister - by claiming they are still on the march in favour of lower taxes and tough action on crime.

He made his eve-of-poll plea for votes in his final keynote speech of the campaign in a South Bank TV studio during a whistle-stop tour around Britain as an opinion poll showed a narrowing of Labour's lead.

He said: "Labour has ducked and weaved on tax and spending. They cloak their plans for more stealth taxes on petrol, on National Insurance, on pensions in weasel words and arrogant evasions.

"If you have had enough of arrogance and spin and broken promises, if you want a government that offers you only what it can deliver, I say vote for what you value."

However, the rally, attended by party activists, came dangerously close to gaffe territory as Michael Portillo, Ann Widdecombe and Francis Maude were ushered on to the stage to give brief speeches about their backgrounds and political belief before the Opposition leader strode on to uplifting music and a standing ovation. …

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