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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
I'll bloody Labour's nose - Clarke
Ken Clarke and supporters
Ken Clarke pledged to pick a fight with Tony Blair
With just seven days to go before the Conservatives announce their new leader, Ken Clarke has pledged to give Labour a "bloody nose" if he is elected as William Hague's successor.


The Conservatives must chose a leader who can give Labour a bloody nose now and boot them out office at the next election

Ken Clarke
In a column for the Sun newspaper, the former chancellor declared he would "cross any road" to pick a fight with Prime Minister Tony Blair and lead the Tories to victory at the next election.

Mr Clarke also rejected the charge from his Eurosceptic opponents that his pro-euro stance made him a Euro-federalist.

He wrote: "I will cross any road to start a fight with Tony Blair and his shallow, rootless, spin-drunk New Labour administration.

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"The Conservatives must chose a leader who can give Labour a bloody nose now and boot them out office at the next election."

Sideswipe

Mr Clarke also took a swipe at leadership rival Iain Duncan Smith, who is backed by the Thatcherite right - including Lady Thatcher herself.

"I believe we can expose Labour's shallowness and pretension. We can stop the Liberal Democrats in their tracks.

"But we can only do it with a leader who comes from the centre-right of the party...

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith is backed by the Thatcherite right
"I do not believe we can do this [appeal to middle-of-the road voters] by lurching to the right."

He also referred to Mr Duncan Smith's apparent policy wobble on the issue of Section 28 saying that his party cannot win back voters "by making policy on the hoof".

Backtrack on U-turn

Over the weekend Mr Duncan Smith first raised the possibility that he would reconsider his support for Section 28, which bans the "promotion" of homosexuality by local authorities, only for sources close to his campaign to later backtrack on the apparent U-turn.

Mr Clarke is spending Wednesday meeting party members in Yorkshire while Mr Duncan Smith is having a day away from the campaign.

On Tuesday, senior Tories who had backed the failed leadership bid of Michael Portillo held a private summit to discuss how to take forward the agenda he had set out.

Shadow cabinet members Francis Maude, David Willetts, Archie Norman and Tim Yeo aim to set up a think tank aimed at pushing forward the more "inclusive" platform outlined by Mr Portillo.

'Constructive spirit'

Shadow social security secretary Mr Willetts said that whoever becomes Tory leader, he and his colleagues hoped to influence him to develop a broader appeal for the party.

"Both Iain and Ken have said they want to move the party forward," said Mr Willetts.

"We believe that that is a very important project and we're keen to help them and serve them. "

Mr Willetts said no name had yet been decided for the new think tank but it would seek to give "effective and lively intellectual support" to the new leader, in a "constructive spirit".

The organisation should not, he insisted, be seen as just some kind of front for a Portilloite faction.


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02 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith 'to rethink' Section 28
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