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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Ancram joins leadership race
Jane, Michael, Mary and Claire Ancram
Michael Ancram, flanked by his wife and daughters
Michael Ancram has stepped into the race to lead the Conservative Party with a side-swipe at his main rival Michael Portillo.

Although Mr Ancram did not mention the shadow chancellor by name, he announced his candidacy in London on Thursday saying the party must not "follow the winds of fashion and fads".

This is no time to seek to match spin with spin, or stardust with stardust

Michael Ancram
Earlier, Mr Portillo set out his personal manifesto for the Conservative Party's future saying it needed fundamental change to be re-elected.

Mr Ancram has resigned his position of Tory party chairman to take part in the contest.

"Bitterness and rancour"

Speaking to journalists in Victoria Gardens, Westminster, Mr Ancram said that it was time to put an end to the Tories' "bitterness and rancour".

A party that stimulates debate and welcomes new ideas is a party with a future

Michael Portillo
Flanked by his wife and two daughters, he said many people had convinced him that he could not "stand aside".

Claiming he was offering the party a "real choice", he said it must choose "between following the winds of fashion and fad and formulae" or taking time to decide what it stands for in the long term.

While speaking at his official campaign launch in a restaurant in central London, Mr Portillo stressed a different line saying: "We need to have the courage to make the change.

'Tory courage'

"The same kind of courage the Conservative Party has shown in the past when it has faced great crisis."

Detailing his aspirations Mr Portillo, who is the current front-runner, said he wants the Conservative Party to become the "the party of ideas".

He called for "the broadest and most stimulating policy debate that the party has seen since 1975".

Michael Portillo: Calling for a fresh debate
Mr Ancram and Mr Portillo will face David Davis and Iain Duncan Smith in a ballot of Conservative MPs before the final two are chosen by all 350,000 Conservative party members.

Other possible candidates still considering their options include former chancellor Ken Clarke and John Redwood, both of whom challenged for the leadership in 1997.

Mr Clarke is due to return to the UK on Friday from a business trip to Japan.

Support for Ancram

Bookmakers William Hill immediately slashed the odds on Mr Ancram taking over from William Hague from 50/1 to 9/1 on news of his official entry.

Mr Ancram has already won some support from colleagues at Westminster.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe - whose own leadership hopes were dashed earlier in the week when she failed to secure enough support from parliamentary colleagues - told the BBC that she would be backing the former Tory chairman.

Having originally suggested that she might back Mr Clarke, she said: "I think the advantage he [Michael Ancram] has over Ken ... is that we do not have the euro problem to surmount."

Portillo and the real world

And commenting on Mr Portillo's campaign launch she said simply: "To say you are re-entering the real world against the backdrop of a champagne breakfast, I think raises eyebrows."

Speaking earlier Mr Duncan Smith promised to "recapture the common ground for people's experiences and worries" if he became leader.

He said he was ready to challenge his party to find new solutions on issues like health, pensions and savings and claimed growing support.

David Davis used the deabte on the Queen's speech to set out his policies on public services, calling for radical reform and a big increase inpolice numbers.

"It is time to break the back of the idea that things will get better if only we spend just a little more," he said.

With Mr Ancram's resignation as chairman his duties, which include overseeing the election process, are to be shared between deputy chairmen David Prior and John Taylor.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"There's so many runners in this race it's starting to feel like Ascot"
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Mr Ancram has become the 'stop Portillo' candidate"
Tory leadership candidate Michael Ancram
"We must get rid of the bitterness and rancour"
Shadow home secretary, Ann Widdecombe
"The case that I'm going to make is for Michael Ancram"

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21 Jun 01 | UK Politics
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