Hague raises nationalist bogey

LONDON, NOV. 15. The Tory leader, Mr. William Hague has been accused of stoking English nationalism with an eye on next year's general elections by stating that a Tory Government would bar Scottish M.P.s in Westminster from voting on ``English laws''. He also vowed to reduce the number of M.P.s from Scotland if his party came to power.

Mr. Hague's remarks during a speech at Oxford that after Scottish devolution M.P.s from Scotland had no right to vote on legislation relating to England have provoked an angry reaction from across the political spectrum. The Labour and the Liberal Democrats accused him of pandering to ``narrow'' English nationalism and trying to seek revenge on voters who rejected the Tories in the last elections. The Scottish National Party's Westminster Parliamentary leader, Mr. Alasdair Morgan called it ``typical Tory anti-Scottishness'' and recalled how Tory M.P.s had voted to impose poll tax on Scotland.

Mr. Hague, calling for ``English votes on English laws'', said it was an ``unfair situation'' where Scottish M.P.s could vote on English affairs but English M.P.s had no say in what was happening in Scotland. ``I don't think we can go on like that forever,'' he said. A Conservative Government, he promised, would put an end to this. ``If there are Scottish votes on Scottish laws, it is only right there should be English votes on English laws and M.P.s for the whole of U.K. should vote together on U.K. matters,'' he argued.

Observers were struck by Mr. Hague's uncharacteristically shrill tone, particularly his warning that if English ``consciousness'' was sought to be ignored or ``bottled up'' it could turn into ``dangerous nationalism.'' They interpreted it as a sign of ``panic'' in the Tory camp following the Labour Party's apparent success in turning the tide of public opinion back in its favour after the slump in its popularity in September.

``His remarks show the Tories believe there are votes to be had south of the border from those who think England got a raw deal over devolution (in Scotland),'' The Guardian commented.

Significantly, Mr. Hague's ``exclusivist'' rhetoric comes barely a month after the Tories pledged to evolve a more ``inclusive'' agenda in order to broaden its appeal to the voters.

But that was when the Labour looked in a bad shape and the Tories sensed that the talk of a more inclusive agenda could help it in the elections. With the Labour now back in business, the Tories have apparently decided to return to their old themes.