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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Copy Texas, Tories told
By Ollie Stone-Lee
BBC News Online politics staff

The Conservatives should learn from the way George Bush made Texas the springboard of his presidential campaign, says the Tories' policy chief.

George Bush
Iain Duncan Smith has close links to Bush's Republicans
Greg Clark said he had been given the advice by President Bush's Republican advisers when he visited America last year.

They said Texas, where Mr Bush was governor, had been at the heart of the Republican campaign to win power nationally. The Tories could do the same by showcasing their "excellent" councils, he argued.

Mr Clark told a Daily Telegraph/Centre for Policy Studies fringe meeting: "They were saying come to Texas, see what we have done locally where we do have power. I think that is exactly what we have to do nationally."

Inner city choice

The policy director, who is playing a key role in preparing the next Tory election manifesto, said the party's vision was about the government doing much less.

There should be choice for the public, rather than assuming that just because the government funds a service that it also has to run it.

I have more government than I need and more government than I can afford. We Conservatives must take that message to the country
John Redwood
And they should realise that people in inner cities were capable of taking advantage of such choice.

It was in deprived areas where the most parents were appealing against the decision to send their child to a particular school, he said.

Centre for Policy Studies director Norman Blackwell, who ran John Major's policy unit, praised Mr Clark's work but said the party should still be bolder.

There was a huge moral case to be put against "big government", he argued. The Tory patients' passports idea did not go far enough, he said, and he was worried plans for a new NHS commission to make health funding decisions independent would not solve the problems.

"We should make all hospitals fully independent," said Lord Blackwell. "We should also give people the choice to take their 1,200 a year which goes to the NHS and put it with a private healthcare provider."

But he backed the plans to allow directly-elected sheriffs to direct policing and he called for more tax cuts.

Campaign message

Former cabinet minister John Redwood used the event to deliver a barnstorming attack on centralisation.

He said: "I have more government than I need and more government than I can afford. We Conservatives must take that message to the country.

"We have been bossed around, we have been robbed, we have been mugged and we should get some of this money back to the people."

Mr Redwood called for a "bonfire" of the guidance notes and regulations issued to local councils, and that could mean cutting the numbers of civil servants "who write this guff".

But Centre for Policy Studies author Harriet Sergeant was worried the Tory proposals were like a "doughnut - a ring of tasty ideas but in the middle a hole".

She said: "What worries me is not the ideas, but the presentation. That these radical ideas that will return power to the ordinary person are going to be lost because of the way the Conservative Party conducts itself."

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