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Sunday, 6 May, 2001, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Tories 'unelectable on Europe'
Sir Edward Heath
Heath: Tories should change their Europe policy
Former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath says the Tories will never return to power with their current policy on Europe.

The MP, who will stand down at the forthcoming general election, told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme it was "not practical politics" to appear to want to withdraw from Europe.

Michael Ancram
Ancram: Ready to fight to win
Sir Edward - who last month suggested the Conservative Party was on the "extreme Right" - said it needed to appeal to the middle ground to be elected.

But Tory Party Chairman Michael Ancram told Breakfast with Frost that the Conservatives continued to be a "broad church".

Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude earlier said the party's official "in Europe but not run by it" line was in tune with majority of the public.

The prime minister is preparing to hold a political cabinet meeting on Monday ahead of an expected election announcement as early as Tuesday.

It is thought the general election will be held on 7 June - the same day as the local council polls.

Tough time ahead

But Sir Edward warned the Conservatives had a "very tough time" ahead, attacking the current Tory policy of ruling out joining the single currency in the next parliament.

"They will never be returned as long as they have that policy, it doesn't make any sense at all," he told the programme.

Roy Hattersley
Hattersley: Big majority bad for Labour
"To say that we won't do anything for 10 years - how can any politician say 'I won't do something for 10 years'? It's just not practical politics."

But Mr Maude told GMTV's The Sunday Programme: "Where we stand on Europe is where most people stand.

"They don't want to turn their backs on it but they don't want it to be such a tightly integrated union that there's no scope for us being self-governing."

Mr Ancram cited the Tory election victory in 1970 - when they came from behind in the polls to win - as evidence that the party could win when written off by commentators and pollsters.

The electorate was now "much more volatile", he said, arguing floating voters would be the decisive factor.

'Failing to deliver'

"There are a lot of people out there who have not decided how to vote," said Mr Ancram.

"Those are the people who we will be addressing."

Tory efforts would focus on 180 "battleground seats" where winning the support of on average 3,000 voters who did not vote Tory in 1997 would win the seats, producing a working Conservative majority.

Mr Ancram promised a "very radical" manifesto which "returned power to the people" by allowing them to make more decisions themselves.

He accused Labour of making the same pledges as in 1997 because of its failure to deliver.

The party chairman dismissed a poll for The Sun last week, which predicted a Labour landslide victory, with its majority increased to 227.

Labour peer Lord Hattersley said such a large majority would be bad for both democracy and the Labour Party.

"It would convince Tony Blair in particular that the sort of middle ground politics that he believes in is the formula for the future," he told Breakfast with Frost.

"I want a much more radical government, I want a real Labour government.

"I think that is much more likely with a majority of 50 than with 200."

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06 May 01 | UK Politics
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