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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 13:09 GMT
Tories 'must stop saying sorry'
Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith needs success at the local elections
The Conservatives should stop apologising for past mistakes and take a bolder approach to attacking the government, a leading member of the shadow cabinet has said.

The door for the opposition is opening so wide that, if nobody walks through soon, the political universe will contain a void that starts to ache

Tim Yeo

In what is being interpreted in some quarters as a dig at party chairman Theresa May, shadow trade and industry Secretary Tim Yeo has called for an end to the Tories' "mea culpa" mentality.

Mrs May opened this year's party conference at Bournemouth by urging the party to ditch its "nasty" image.

But in an article for Thursday's Guardian, Mr Yeo said "self-flagellation by Tories amid Labour failure on every side is bewildering".

Rallying call

Mr Yeo said the door was "wide open" for the opposition.

But the Tories would only make an impact if they stopped fighting old battles.

It was time to stop learning lessons from past election defeats and get on with addressing current issues, he argued.

Mr Yeo's comments come as Ian Duncan Smith issued a fresh rallying call to grassroots activists.

'Long road back'

In his New Year message to constituency chairmen, Mr Duncan Smith admitted it had not been an easy 12 months for the party.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo says the Tories must make an impact soon
But he insisted it had taken "the first steps on the long road back to electoral victory".

Mr Duncan Smith repeated his claim that 2003 would be the year in which party's hard work would begin to pay off.

The Tory leader is facing May's local elections amid continuing disquiet about his effectiveness as leader and poor showings in the opinion polls.

Launching what he called Campaign 2003, Mr Duncan Smith said he wanted to concentrate on education, health and cutting crime.

He said the key to success on May 1 was "local solutions to local problems".

"If we are to win again we need to get back in touch with the things that matter most in people's lives," Mr Duncan Smith told activists.

'Labour incompetence'

In his newspaper article, Mr Yeo backed his leader's decision to focus on public services.

But he called for a bolder approach to attacking the government.

Although cheap mortgages and relatively low unemployment meant most people felt comfortably off, Labour's failures in health, transport, education and crime were mounting up, he argued.

"The list of people threatened by the consequences of Labour incompetence grows every month", Mr Yeo wrote.

Despite their success on local issues, the Liberal Democrats remained "light years away" from a "coherent set of national priorities," he argued.

"The door for the opposition is opening so wide that, if nobody walks through soon, the political universe will contain a void that starts to ache," he writes.

Mr Yeo urged the Tories to "cast aside the politically correct conventional wisdom of the last decade" in favour of tax cuts, "more police and more prisons".

See also:

30 Dec 02 | Politics
27 Dec 02 | Politics
23 Dec 02 | Politics
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