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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Ancram makes it four
Michael Ancram
Michael Ancram announces his decision to run
Michael Ancram has become the highest profile rival to Michael Portillo as the number of contenders to lead the Conservative Party grows.

The party chairman resigned his post on Thursday to become the fourth entrant in the race to succeed William Hague.


I am not standing to fulfil long held personal ambition

Michael Ancram
Launching his campaign on a "unity" platform in Victoria Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament, Mr Ancram called on the Tory Party not to take too radical a departure from first principles as it seeks to fight its way back to power.

He said: "I am not standing to fulfil long-held personal ambition, but to offer the Conservative Party the chance to choose the path of unity, to grasp the opportunity for reflection rather than hasty action and to renew our appeal to the people without tearing up our roots."

Reaching out

Picking up the theme developed by all those standing in the race, Mr Ancram stressed the need for his party to pick up fresh support.

"Of course as a party we will need to reach out beyond our current support, but before we do so we need with total integrity to be very clear and united in our own minds from where we are reaching out."

Mr Ancram, who served as party chairman under William Hague from 1998, is the first challenger to Michael Portillo not to hail from the party's right-wing.

Joined by his wife and daughters as he made his announcement, Mr Ancram denied that he had long been planning his move.

Unable to stand aside

"As recently as last week I had not contemplated standing," he said.

"I am putting my name forward today because I have been convinced by so many people both inside and outside parliament that I cannot stand aside."

Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo has the support of over half of the shadow cabinet
He urged an end to "the bitterness and rancour" that has dogged the Tories and said the Conservatives should "become a party where we can differ without undermining each other and where we put party and country before personal ambition".

He is being seen as a "stop Portillo" candidate, and already has the backing of the shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe.

Endorsing the former party chairman, she said: "He is very well liked by the voluntary party."

Campaigning for Michael

"This will be a positive campaign for Michael - Ancram that is."

The Devizes MP spoke out strongly for what he sees as the traditions of his party.

"This is no time to seek to match spin with spin, or stardust with stardust. It is no time to strike out against the grain of our party and its traditions.

"Rather it is a time to reach out to all corners of our damaged party and to bring us together within those common principles which make us all Conservatives."

Mr Portillo said he welcomed the fourth horse to enter the race, while fellow contender Iain Duncan Smith refused to comment on the new contender.

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See also:

21 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Michael Ancram: The emollient earl
21 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Ancram joins leadership race
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