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banner Monday, 2 October, 2000, 18:03 GMT 19:03 UK
Major urges Tories to 'reach out'
The Hagues and the Majors
Hague is seeking to emulate Major's election win
John Major sought to bolster the strength of the One Nation wing of the Conservatives when he warned his party it must "reach out" to the disadvantaged and embrace "inclusive" policies in order to win the next election.

The former prime minister said it was crucial to the party's electoral hopes that it did not allow its opponents to paint it the protector of privilege.

We must reach out to all - the people in slums, the people in need, the people outside the circle of rising prosperity, the black and brown and yellow Britons who are as much a part of our society as I am

John Major

Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Tory conference in Bournemouth, he said the party had enjoyed its greatest electoral successes when it "reached out" and pursued the One Nation principle.

He urged the party to seek support from the poor, ethnic minorities and "the people in slums".

Concern at populism

Mr Major's remarks will be seen as a bid to stem what centre-left Tories fear is policy driven by populism.

At the start of the summer Tory leader William Hague succeeded in seizing the agenda from Labour on issues like asylum seekers and the government's failed attempt to scrap Clause 28 on homosexuality.

Critics have accused Mr Hague of adopting positions that pandered to prejudice. He suffered two high-profile defections to Labour - shadow minister Shaun Woodward last autumn, and former mayoral hopeful Ivan Massow in August - over the Tory leader's decision to oppose the abolition of Clause 28.

Conservative Mainstream

"We must reach out to all," Mr Major said in Bournemouth. "The people in slums, the people in need, the people outside the circle of rising prosperity, the black and brown and yellow Britons who are as much a part of our society as I am.

"Our policies and our party are for them as much as for anyone else.

Mr Major made his speech to a meeting of the centre-left Conservative Mainstream group, which includes Tory wets such as former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine and former chancellor Kenneth Clarke among its members.

Mr Clarke and Mr Heseltine are understood to be concerned at the party ceding the political centre ground to Labour.

John and Norma Major
Mr and Mrs Major were welcomed warmly
Earlier, Mr Heseltine described as "ludicrous" the fact that One Nation Tories like Mr Clarke, who contested the party leadershio in 1997, were not on the front bench.

And another member of the Tory left, former minister Ian Taylor MP - like his fellow Mainstream members, a pro-European - said it was essential that Tory leader William Hague broadened the party's appeal and reached out to the political centre.

"He won't get into No 10 if we carry on as we have been doing," he told the BBC.

'Binding up wounds'

Mr Major told the meeting: "This week there are a range of inclusive policies to be announced. I hope they will prove attractive to people in every part of the country and from every background. We must not allow ourselves to be falsely labelled by our opponents.

"We are the party that stands for One Nation. I'm a Tory. I'm a Tory who believes in the politics of binding up wounds.

"I'm a Tory who believes that consensus and understanding the points of view of others is a strength and not a weakness. Our party has had its greatest triumphs when it reached out. Now we are reaching out again.

"I'm a Tory and I'll tell you why I'm here. I'm here to help the Conservatives win the next election. No ifs, no buts, no qualifications," Mr Major declared.

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