Wind of Change Blows through Hague's Tories; the Conservative Party Is Having to Respond Practically to Labour's New Constitutional Agenda, Says Political Correspondent Chris Gray
Before the electoral earthquake of May 1, the Conservatives did not need to have a constitutional policy.They believed everything was fine in the political structure of Britain and Mr John Major made a virtue out of his passion in defending the union from the vicious onslaught of ilhought-out Labour reforms.
The response from the electorate was to return the biggest Labour Parliamentary majority in history.
Obviously it was time for a Tory re-think on the constitution.
This week Mr William Hague made the first attempt to present the Tories' new approach to constitutional questions.
It is a thorny issue for the Tories because they are traditionally opposed to any radical constitutional change yet must plan ahead for a new Britain where the country's political structure will have changed completely.
Conservatives must accept if they win in 2002 or 2007 they will be dealing with new developments they once opposed absolutely.
A Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly, a House of Lords stripped of hereditary peers, and a new government for London.
All of these will be a reality and the Tories will have to deal with them.
Mr Hague was right to remind them of that and start them thinking about how they were going to respond. So far they have treated each part of Labour's reform programme on its merits, and opted for a practical reaction.
For instance they retain opposition to a London-wide assembly but have accepted the case for an elected Mayor for the capital and will be mounting a strong campaign to ensure a Tory wins the post.
But it does not free them from their dilemma, as was seen when Mr Hague condemned Labour's plans as "constitutional vandalism".
If that is what he truly believes, surely he should be pledging to clean it up if the Tories win office.
Instead he is saying the reforms cannot be easily undone and the Tories must try to preserve the principles of the existing constitution within the new framework established by Labour.
That will not mean dismantling the Scottish Parliament as Mr Hague admitted the Tories had failed to heed the demands for devolution from north of the border. …