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Former Tory leader's defiant message

William Hague at the Churston Farm Shop Cafe (Image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

'It's never over until 10pm on election day'

Former Conservative leader William Hague has been in South Devon to help shore up support for the party.

The Tory peer was in defiant mood when asked if the party would throw in the towel with two weeks to go to the election and latest polls predicting a catastrophe for his party.

“It’s not all over,” said the now Baron Hague of Richmond, the seat currently held by prime minister Rishi Sunak, whose own seat is now under threat according to a poll by Electoral Calculus.

Lord Hague continued: “Ninety nine per cent of people haven’t voted yet, and we’ve seen elections change a lot in two weeks. “It’s never over until 10pm on election day.”

The Tory grandee, who was party leader from 1997 to 2001 when the Conservatives were in opposition, was in South Devon to throw his weight behind Tory candidate Anthony Mangnall, who represented Totnes until parliament was dissolved last month.

William Hague, Anthony Mangnall and supporters at the Churston Farm Shop Cafe (Image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

Lord Hague spoke to party supporters at the Churston Farm Shop Cafe, before heading out to help activists deliver leaflets.

He pledged his support for Mr Mangnall, who worked for him as a researcher and private secretary early in his career.

And he said that even in opposition it was important to have a strong local community MP.

“Even if there’s a Labour government, you need a strong opposition,” he said. “I led the smallest opposition in post-war history in 1997, and that was difficult going, but we managed.”

He acknowledged the pressure from other parties in South Devon, but said it was important to send a Conservative MP back to Westminster.

A 'People's Vote' earlier this year tried to rally support around a single candidate to attempt Mr Mangnell's defenestration, but in the end all main parties selected candidates.

“If Labour win really big, as some are suggesting, they would have nearly all the committees and they’d be marking their own homework,” Lord Hague said.

“So if the vote is fragmented among the Liberal Democrats and Reform, whoever it may be, you’re just making the government even more powerful.

“You need a Conservative member of parliament, particularly one who is not only very active on local issues, but also really contributes to the work of a national parliament.

“You’ve got a great local champion here, and you’re going to need that in the next parliament.”

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