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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
'Nasty' Tories told to change
Mrs May wants Tories to be more 'open minded'

Some Conservatives have behaved "disgracefully" in the past and the party must clean up its act if it is ever to win back voters trust, party chairman Theresa May has warned.

No more glib moralising, no more finger wagging

Theresa May
In a hard-hitting speech to the Tories' annual conference in Bournemouth, Mrs May said it was time for the party to face up to the "uncomfortable truth" about the way it was sometimes perceived by the public as the "nasty party".

"In recent years a number of politicians have behaved disgracefully and then compounded their offences by trying to evade responsibility. We all know who they are.

"Let's face it some of them have stood on this platform."

'Spin and counter spin'

She said the impression of sleaze had been "reinforced by what we have read in the newspapers over the last two weeks."

The build up to this year's conference has been overshadowed by revelations about former prime minister John Major's four-year affair with Edwina Currie.

Disgraced former Tory peer Lord Archer has also been in the headlines for breaking the rules of the prison where he is serving a sentence for perjury.

Mrs May said had the public had become cynical about "spinning and counter spinning" politicians who promised too much and delivered too little and were only interested in pursuing their own obsessions.

She added: "Politicians need to look at themselves. And that, ladies and gentleman, includes Conservatives".

'Yah-boo' politics

She attacked the "mindless partisanship" that passes for debate" in modern politics.

"Yah-boo, Punch and Judy, call it what you will, the public is sick of it."

To sustained applause, she called on Tories to sop fighting amongst themselves had get behind Iain Duncan who had the "imagination" and courage to reform a party battered by two election defeats in a row.

"Some Tories have tried to make political capital by demonising minorities instead of showing confidence in all the citizens of our country," Mrs May told representatives.

"Some Tories have indulged themselves in petty feuding or personal sniping instead of getting behind a leader who is doing an enormous amount to change a party which has suffered two massive landslide defeats."

'Nasty party'

She said radical new policies in health and education would help convince people that the Conservatives were a credible alternative.

But she also urged representatives to change its "behaviour and attitudes" and change the public's perception of the Tories as the "nasty party".

"No more glib moralising. No more hypocritical finger wagging," she told representatives.

' Hitting back at criticism from former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind and others of Mr Duncan Smith's "unquestioning" support for Tony Blair over Iraq she said: "Conservatives don't believe in opposition for opposition's sake.

Open minds

"We believe in doing what is right."

She said George Bush and Tony Blair "deserved the gratitude of everyone for standing up to the forces of evil" over Iraq.

She also spoke of the need to reform the public services and recruit more women MPs.

She urged local constituency chairmen to be "more open-minded" about what would make a good parliamentary candidate.

Selection procedures were "stuck in the past", she said.

The BBC's Guto Harri reports from Bournemouth
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See also:

07 Oct 02 | Politics
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