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EDITIONS
Monday, 7 October, 2002, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Tories 'must change or face slaughter'
Theresa May during her Conservative Conference speech
May: Tories must look to the future

Tory chairman Theresa May has delivered a blunt warning to Conservatives to change their "nasty, narrow" image - or face further crushing defeats at the polls.

She said the Tories had appeared "unrepentant and unattractive" to voters at the last two elections and were "slaughtered" as a result.

There is a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies

Theresa May

The hard-hitting speech came as party spokesmen unveiled some of the new policies on health and education which the party hopes will help revive its fortunes.

Plans to give more power to parents and radically reform NHS funding are among 25 new policies being promised this week by the Tories.

But it was Mrs May's speech which was the talk of the coffee bars in the Bournemouth conference centre on the first day of the event.

The party chairman surprised representatives with the force of her attack on "feuding and sniping" in the party, and her message that "glib moralising and hypocritical finger wagging" had to end.

She said the Conservatives' base had become too narrow, as had, occasionally, the party's sympathies - with minorities "demonised" by some Tories.

'Nasty party'

And in the last two general election campaigns - led by William Hague and John Major - the party had been "unchanged, unrepentant, just plain unattractive", she said.

Fox unveiled new health policy
"And twice we got slaughtered."

She went on: "There is a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies.

"You know what some people call us - the nasty party."

She pressed home her message that the party needs more women candidates - saying its current selection procedure was "hopelessly stuck in the past".

And she said the raft of new policies being unveiled this week would help see the Conservatives returned to power.

'Blue water'

The first of those were announced later by education spokesman Damian Green and shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox.


The NHS has been a political football for far too long. I don't want politicians deciding which patients should be treated and when

Liam Fox
The health plans - which Dr Fox said put "clear blue water" between Labour and the Tories - would give all hospitals the freedom to raise revenue and set their own budgets.

He attacked what he said was Labour's obsession with central control and targets, saying: "The NHS has been a political football for far too long. I don't want politicians deciding which patients should be treated and when."

Damian Green: More power for parents
He said Labour's policy was a "shameful, unethical and immoral way to run a health service".

Meanwhile, widely-trailed plans to give parents and other groups the power to run state-funded schools were announced by Damian Green.

Choice

The "state scholarships", which would first be introduced in deprived areas, would be a "revolution in our school system".


The Conservative Party, its principles, its people, have been let down in recent years by the failure of some to represent faithfully the best in Conservativism

Theresa May
He said: "The sort of choice in schools now enjoyed only by the well off will be spread to many more families."

But the message from Mrs May was that policies had to come hand in hand with change - and an end to "petty feuding and sniping" - within the Tory party itself.

The run-up to the conference has seen the party facing damaging attacks on Iain Duncan Smith's leadership.

Mrs May also hit out at those politicians - among them Tories - whose "disgraceful" behaviour had eroded public faith in politics.

Later, Mrs May admitted she was referring to Jonathan Aitken and Lord Archer.

"I think most people know who they were, indeed one or two of them ended up in jail," she told BBC's Newsnight.

Her comments come after days of damaging headlines about Jeffrey Archer and John Major's affair with Edwina Currie.

Mrs May said: "The Conservative Party, its principles, its people, have been let down in recent years by the failure of some to represent faithfully the best in Conservativism."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Conservative Party Chairman, Theresa May
"We went to the country twice... and we were slaughtered twice"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Theresa May gave them a stinging public scolding"

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See also:

06 Oct 02 | Politics
05 Oct 02 | Politics
05 Oct 02 | Politics
07 Oct 02 | Politics
04 Oct 02 | Politics
07 Oct 02 | Health
07 Oct 02 | Education
07 Oct 02 | Politics
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