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Saturday, 6 October, 2001, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Tories deny ignoring black vote
The Tory faithful at a Conservative party conference
The party does not look representative, says Taylor
The Conservatives have dismissed claims by a black Tory peer that the party virtually wrote off the black vote at the general election.

It follows comments by Lord Taylor of Warwick that the Conservative Party appeared "mean and xenophobic" at the last election and did not do enough to attract members of ethnic minorities.

As the Conservative faithful prepare to head to Blackpool, the peer said a typical Tory conference resembled the Last Night of The Proms, "which is hardly representative of modern Britain".

The British people could see how narrow and limited the Tory party had become

Lord Taylor
But a Conservative spokesman later played down Lord Taylor's remarks, saying the peer held no official post within the party and would not be disciplined.

"We've heard all this before," said the spokesman.

He said the new leader, Iain Duncan Smith, had this week set up a team of advisers on race issues.

They would be coming forward with "practical steps" for encouraging more members of the ethnic minorities to join the party, he added.

Lord Taylor's comments came as Mr Duncan Smith again moved to dismiss accusations that right-wing extremists had been actively involved in the party or his leadership campaign.

Mr Duncan Smith told the Daily Telegraph: "I am tired of the Conservative Party being diverted by the activities of one or two individuals, individuals who are totally at odds with what we are working for."

The leader, who last week appointed the party's first Asian vice-chairman, reiterated his pledge to have "no truck with racism in the Conservative Party".

'Xenophobic perception'

Lord Taylor, who challenged Mr Hague before the election over former Tory MP John Townend's controversial comments about immigration, made his claims in an article for the House magazine.

In his article, Lord Taylor said: "Over recent years, the Conservative Party has descended into something which many perceive as mean and xenophobic.

"Harry Enfield's Tory Boy and Rick Mayall's Alan B'Stard were comic creations which had more than an element of truth."

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith: "No truck with racism"
The Tory peer called the party's failure to reach out to the "black vote" short-sighted, especially when those voters alone affected 100 marginal seats.

He continued: "While there is a legitimate distinction between the issues of race and asylum, the tabloid tone adopted by many Conservative spokesman gave the impression that the party in 2001 still did not accept that Britain is multi-racial and multi-cultural."

Lord Taylor said he was invited to speak about ethical leadership and diversity worldwide, but not once has his own party shown any interest in his views.

'Too few women'

He claimed too that the Tories had lost touch with women, despite them forming a majority of the electorate.

"The fact that so few women are chosen for a safe seats is a continuing disgrace," he said.

Lord Taylor of Warwick
Taylor says his party has lost the people
Mr Duncan Smith has said he wants more ethnic minority and women candidates to stand under the Tory banner but has yet to outline exactly how he plans to achieve that aim.

Lord Taylor said: "A modernised Conservative Party can win again. But it will have to show it cares about winning people, not just winning votes.

"Therein lies the tragedy. Over the last 20 years, it was the Tory party which won the big political arguments. But somewhere along the way, it lost the people."

Lord Taylor of Warwick
"It is perceived as racist, insular, old fashioned"
The BBC's Guto Harri
"Duncan Smith has made it clear he wants to change the party"
See also:

05 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tories appoint first Asian vice-chairman
30 Apr 01 | Talking Politics
Profile: Lord Taylor of Warwick
29 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Race row MP faces expulsion
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