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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Michael Ancram statement in full
This is the full text of Michael Ancram's statement announcing his entry to the race to become leader of the Conservative Party.
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.
Since 7 June I have considered the reasons why we did not make the political breakthrough which we had intended, a deep disappointment for which of course along with all my senior shadow cabinet colleagues I fully accept my share of responsibility.
Over these last two weeks I have said little but listened a lot. Listened to the commentators, listened to the people, but above all listened to the party.
For my part, I had not been planning a campaign for the Conservative leadership.
As recently as last week I had not contemplated standing. 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.
End the bitterness
There are lessons from the election to be learned and changes to be made.
But there is one message from the party in parliament and more especially in the country which is coming through louder and clearer than all others.
It is the very least that we here in Westminster owe to our party in the country who over these last months have worked themselves to the bone for us.
We must be measured and not rushed, we must be unifying rather than confrontational, and we must take the time necessary to get it right.
The challenge facing us must be about principles, about what binds us together.
We do not need to invent a new Conservative Party; we must start by reminding ourselves and the British people what we really stand for.
Rather it is 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.
Healing the party
Before we can claim to heal our divided nation, our scarred inner cities, our devastated countryside, we must first show that we can heal our own party.
I believe we need to undergo a genuine process of renewal.
That process should not just be in the hands of the leadership or even the shadow cabinet.
It must also be based on real consultation with the party in the country and we should have the courage to seek ideas from the best minds and experience available to us.
And it should recognise that we have much to learn from our successful colleagues in local government and our MEPs.
Nor should we exclude the talents and experience of those of our candidates who sadly were not successful.
Much has been said about the need for our party to reach out, to address itself to those who have not voted for us in the last two general elections.
That process is vital, but it will only succeed if we are seen also to be welcoming within our own ranks not only those who are suddenly anxious to change our party but also those who have courageously carried the Conservative torch throughout recent difficult times.
I would like to place again on record the appreciation we must have as a party for the enormously important changes William Hague forged in our party, which have made us a modern political fighting force.
Nor should we ever dismiss the radical thinking he brought to our policies. But now in the aftermath of defeat we must reflect and renew.
The whole party must own this process of renewal if it is to lay down foundations upon which we can build recovery.
Those foundations must be the integrity of the core beliefs and principles for which conservatism stands.
Our belief in people as individuals, in setting them free, in giving them respect, choice and responsibility.
Being a good neighbour
Our belief in being the good neighbour not because we are told to by government but because it is part of our conservative instinct to be so.
Our belief in small government, in doing only what government needs to do and doing it well, particularly with regard to the public services.
Our belief in lifting the burden of regulation and giving decision making back to those who locally can make the best decisions.
And our ingrained respect for the professionals who care for us in so many walks of life.
And our belief in our country, in our United Kingdom and in its cultures and traditions; and the need to fight to retain our rights of self determination while playing our role in Europe and in the wider world.
Our belief that we are one nation with all that this term implies.
Common principles, fresh policies
These beliefs, these principles, upon which I will enlarge in the coming days are, I believe, common to all conservatives.
That is how the Conservative Party has over the centuries renewed itself and shown time and again that it could answer the needs of the age within which it found itself.
That is what we must do again. But to do so, we must start by re-establishing these beliefs at the very heart of our renewal.
If this contest is to mean anything it must offer real choice and it must offer this choice.
It is the choice between following the fickle winds of political fashion and fads and formulae in pursuit of change, or standing back for a time to re-establish in our hearts and in our minds who we are and why.
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.
My task as leader in this Parliament would be to rebuild the Conservative Party so that it provides the principled and effective opposition which our country needs, and to ensure that when the next election comes we have the force, and vision, and unity with which we can go out and win.
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