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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 13 August, 2002, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Tory split claims 'are just talk'
Reports that a group of moderate Conservatives are planning a break away party have been dismissed by a senior frontbencher.

Shadow education spokesman Damian Green, who is on the modernising left wing of the party, said the story, in the Daily Telegraph, was just "talk".


We are now actually addressing the real issues that matter to the British people

Damian Green
The newspaper claims the break away group includes supporters of failed leadership candidate Michael Portillo disillusioned by the Tories' poor opinion poll ratings.

It says about 50 people, including 12 prospective parliamentary candidates, have been involved in preliminary discussions, under the working title of the Start Again Party.

Portillo 'not involved'

The newspaper says the group wants the Conservatives to adopt a libertarian, modernising agenda.

Tory frontbenchers are reported to have been at functions where the break away has been discussed, but Mr Portillo is not thought to be involved.

The Telegraph says there is growing disquiet in the Conservative ranks at Iain Duncan Smith's leadership and with their opinion poll ratings stuck at about 35%, many Tories are worried about their prospects at the next general election.

The newspaper claims to have seen a series of e-mails between members of the break-away group.

It says the group will be monitoring the Conservative Party conference and the next wave of parliamentary candidates for signs of reform.

'Mainstream views'

But Damian Green, who backed Mr Portillo in last year's leadership election, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was not aware of any split.

"Anyone who shares moderate mainstream Conservative philosophies is now not just at home in the Conservative Party, but actually represents the main thrust of Conservative policy.

"We are changing the Conservative Party so it once again reconnects with the broad mass of the British people.

"Instead of doing some of the things we have done in the past which we have done wrong, we are now actually addressing the real issues that matter to the British people."

See also:

29 Jul 02 | Politics
23 Jul 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Politics
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