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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 12:07 GMT

UK Politics

Portillo lays it on the (kitchen) table

Michael Portillo: "We can't win with whole professions against us"

Former Tory Cabinet minister Michael Portillo has attacked his party for alienating entire professions such as teachers and health workers.

Mr Portillo gave his backing for Conservative leader William Hague's new approach - nicknamed "kitchen table" Toryism - to reach parts of the electorate other styles failed to touch.

"It is extraordinary that you can almost say, teacher, and you will know that person is not voting Conservative," the former MP said.

[ image: Tories are looking to US-style
Tories are looking to US-style "kitchen table" politics
"You can't win elections if there are whole professions, there are whole job descriptions, that are not voting for your party.

"And there's no reason why these people shouldn't vote for our party, provided that we explain what our philosophy is, speak up for them and have proper policies which help."

Mr Portillo, who lost his seat at 1997 general election, is still talked about as a likely leader of the Conservative Party.

But he expressed his support for the ideas Mr Hague picked up while meeting US Republican presidential hopeful George W Bush.

Mr Bush, the son of former President George Bush, is credited with revamping his party's issues by reaching out to formerly "lost" voters.

Michael Portillo: "There's no reason why teachers and nurses shouldn't vote for us"
Mr Portillo said: "Whereas the Bush brothers reached out to blacks and Hispanics - which certainly we ought to do in equivalent terms in this country - I think the no-go areas for the Tories have become teachers and large numbers of professionals, maybe doctors and nurses

"The Tory Party has to find a message for these people.

"It means talking about the issues people are talking about in the language that people use.

[ image: George W Bush: Promoted a brand of
George W Bush: Promoted a brand of "caring conservatism"
"It's one of the three things that the Bush brothers are alleged to have done. The others are reaching out to constituencies that have become sort of no-go areas and the other things is that the Bush brothers also stuck to some right-of-centre policies such as law and order."

Mr Portillo agreed the previous Conservative governments were perceived by many to have denigrated the public sector.

"I agree the resentment is based on that," he said. "It is one of the things that has to be left behind.

"I don't think it is true that we denigrated the public sector, but if we gave that impression that is absolutely something that has to be unsaid, we have to move on.

"I think the denigration of public servants is a really objectionable part of modern life."

But he said he believed it would be possible for the Conservatives to reach out to these workers again.

"I think one of the things an opposition can do is associate itself with the grievances people are bound to have and let's face there are still teachers worried about conditions and standards in school and nurses worried about their value and whether they are paid enough."

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