30 SEPTEMBER 2000, Page 22


Tessa Keswick advises the Tory leader

to give his wife a tongue sarnie at Bournemouth

`GIVE me a kiss, and to that kiss a score; then to that twenty, add a hundred more. . . . ' The real question today is: what does William Hague know about kissing? We ought to know. All of us who are interested in consolidating the amazing turn in the opinion polls — which in the last two weeks haN'ie brought a new light into the deadened eyes of politically dedi- cated Conservatives — are keen to ensure lasting success. This should and could be clinched by Hague in Bournemouth next week; after all, opinion polls show he could be the next prime minister. To ensure success, there is no doubt at all that William must grab the gorgeous Ffion and go for that Kiss.

Remember what happened to vice-presi- dent Gore at the Democratic convention when he leapt on to the platform only a month or so ago? Tipper was subjected not to a mere Gordon Brown peck, or a Tony Blair nuzzle, but what John Aspinall used to call a lung-puncher' — actually quite dangerous, I'm told, because the epiglottis can go into stricture — and this particular lung-puncher lasted at least a minute. The fact that Tipper was taken completely by surprise, which was clear from her flaying arms and ricked neck, counted a lot (unscripted and spontaneous). The episode looked awkward but, at that criti- cal moment, Alpha Male Gore sprang into the consciousness of the deadly bored American public — mainly women, of course. Like the hideous Beast after the kiss from Beauty, the droning vice-presi- dent with his odious detailed policies fell away, transmogrified into a stunning Alpha Male with extraordinary depth and vision, of whom no one can get enough. Until he was caught fibbing again last week, opinion polls showed the vice-presi- dent to have leapt from minus 17 points to plus 14 and rising. And it is the women's vote that has done it.

A lung-puncher is just what William needs, and he can do it on the platform next week! A taxi-driver told me straight out the other day, after a delicate question, `I don't think much of him, but I'd give Ffion one.' This is unfair. William is tall and manly with lovely broad shoulders which you don't see on the television you may not like his hair (though my hus- band the other day said he was going out for the same haircut) but he has all the necessary visible attributes of the Alpha Male — and Ffion is exquisite and very sexy. The point is that women must have an inkling of what goes on here; they must be able to have a demonstration of William's passionate side to be able to concentrate on what he says. Women know too that we all let slip what we most care about sooner or later — it shows. So less talk about judo and more about pearly Ffion.

The point is we know so little of what goes on behind the cool Hague façade. Blair is known to feel physically sick every week at Prime Minister's Questions, because William cannot be bettered under fire and knows how to give it to Tony. Nothing fazes him. He sleeps like a babe; his nerves are marmoreal. And yet this is simply not good enough.

It is understandable that he should be reluctant to let us into the privacy of his home; but it means that we are deprived of the secrets of the Hague kitchen (is there one, or is it just the Teasmade?), and everyone knows that the most important room for women is the kitchen — apart from the bedroom, of course. One of Mrs Thatcher's most potent photographs in the mid-1970s was of her packing her suitcase with tissue paper, while another showed her counting the tins stored in her larder. And shots of William and Ffion freezing in anoraks up a hill in Yorkshire only add to the chill; and anyway, what happens on those secretive American trips?

Yes, those polls definitely need consolida- tion. We do not want William to remain like Bonar Law — inaccessible, remote and unsexy — when things could be so different.

To be cool is important, but even Jesus Christ went out of his way to show how He understood the human heart in all its frailty through the women He chose to promote. While His mother is cool in blue, white and gold, and symbolises transcend- ing purity, Mary Magdalen He took to his bosom and with her all the passions of the world. In that simple act of understanding, He knew how to gain universal appeal.

Blair is more popular with women now, though they have always been a little wary of his ways, considering him sly; but the birth of baby Leo helped to convince waver- ers. Although Mo Mowlam brought a new meaning to loyalty and sealed her fate when she went round television studios following the announcement of Leo, saying, 'Can you imagine being f—ed by him?'

There is a crying need for William to try to be nice to women, because the Conserva- tives have been losing their votes for some years and the situation does not appear to be improving fast. At the last election a mil- lion women who had previously voted Con- servative voted Labour for the first time in their lives. But by early 1999 Labour's lead among 18 to 35-year-old women had reached a massive 40 per cent, though I am pleased to say this has declined somewhat. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between voting intentions and age group- ings. A distinct line can now be drawn around the age of 45, demonstrating that emancipated women behave in a very dif- ferent way from women born before 1945. Women who used to be the backbone of the Conservative party and win it election after election in the 20th century may switch permanently unless something is done about it quickly. Just as President Clinton won re-election with a 24 per cent gender gap through a raft of policies for women, so will Gore and then Blair unless something is pulled out of the hat.

It is something of a scandal that more is not done by the Conservatives to address the women's problem, which until now has only been scratched on the surface. Con- servative voters need a wider, more sub- stantial agenda to soften the hard-edged, more economically based issues that Con- servatives know and love. This would help bring the disaffected back into the fold. It is not just the votes; there is the question of equity. It is simply unwise to disregard the hopes and aspirations of 52 per cent of the population who have been left out in the cold for too long. Next week William must announce some sexy policies for women — but, first of all, William, you could start off with that Kiss. . . .

A thousand to that hundred: so kiss on, To make that thousand up a million, Treble that million, and when that is done, Let's kiss afresh, as when we first begun.

Go for it, William; Ffion's a peach!

Tessa Keswick, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, will give the CPS lecture 'Second amongst Equals: Women in the Conservative party' — at Bournemouth.