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EDITIONS
Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
Stop living in past, Tories told
Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith: 'Labour are like desperate gamblers'
Conservatives must look to the future and stop "harking back" to their 1997 general election defeat, party leader Iain Duncan Smith has warned.

I know our Party has to change, if we are to be given the chance to change our country

Iain Duncan Smith
Chancellor Gordon Brown's 2002 Spending Review marked "a defining moment" in British politics, Mr Duncan Smith claimed.

There was now a clear divide between the centralising, bureaucratic Labour party and "modern" Tories who wanted to devolve power to ordinary people.

But too many Tories were still re-living the battles of 1997, Mr Duncan Smith said, in a wide-ranging speech billed as a warm-up for this year's party conference.

'Misconceptions'

"As the distinctions between the parties become clearer and the debate over the future of our country becomes more intense, so our ideas will not only be debated, I fear they will also be mocked and traduced," Mr Duncan Smith told an audience at the Institute of Directors in London.

"Our achievements will be derided. Our motives will be questioned. And our policies will be caricatured.

I am a realist. I know that many people have misconceptions about our party."

But that should not stop Conservatives from trying to reform their party, he said.

'Unfair'

"I know our Party has to change, if we are to be given the chance to change our country," he said.

Our representatives have to look more like the nation we aspire to lead

Iain Duncan Smith
But he added: "We must look forward to the future and not hark back to the past.

"We will not win the next election by persuading today's electorate that they were wrong to throw us out in 1997.

"However unfair we may think Labour's attack on our record was, we must leave it to the historians to set the record straight. However many times we replay the 1997 Election, we will always end up losing it."

'Self-flagellation'

Mr Duncan Smith used the annual Centre for Policy Studies lecture to continue road testing a more caring brand of Conservatism.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair inflicted a heavy toll on the Tories in 1997
He made a point of speaking about vulnerable members of society and attempted to distance the party from the "blood and soil" nationalism of the far right.

He admitted the Tories still had an image problem.

"I know our representatives have to look more like the nation we aspire to lead," he said.

But he urged against "self-flagellation".

"For a Party that prides itself on dealing with the world as it is, too many of us spend too much of our time railing against the injustice of the way we are portrayed," Mr Duncan Smith said.

'Desperate gamblers'

He also attacked Labour's attempts to micromanage the public services.

"They insist on trying to run every aspect of our public services from a desk in Whitehall and because they try to run everything they end up running most things badly," he said.

And he criticised Labour's public spending plans, comparing the party to "desperate gamblers who think they have a system that will come good for them in the end.

"They raise the stakes in an attempt to recoup their losses.

"Alas in this instance they are playing with our money and gambling with other people's lives.

"And the real disaster is that it won't work and we will all lose," he said.

Health pledge

Earlier, Mr Duncan Smith pledged to preserve the principle of NHS treatment regardless of ability to pay.

But he made clear he was planning to propose wholesale changes to the way in which the NHS was funded and run.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Jimmy Young programme, Mr Duncan Smith said he would consider alternative options for funding the NHS, such as private insurance or a dedicated health tax.

But he would not be drawn on specific policy plans.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"The Tory leader warned his members not to look back to old battles"
See also:

16 Jul 02 | Politics
24 Jan 02 | Politics
21 May 02 | Politics
22 May 02 | Politics
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