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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 13:43 GMT
Howard 'would cut taxes' as PM
Michael Howard
Mr Howard takes time out on Saturday to watch Folkestone vs Hemel Hempstead
Michael Howard has told a newspaper he would cut taxes if he won the Conservative leadership contest and became prime minister.

With it becoming more likely Mr Howard will be elected unopposed to replace Iain Duncan Smith next week, he told the News of the World that reduced taxes would be the "centrepiece" of his campaign.

Lower taxes would create a stronger economy and a stronger society, because people "do more for each other and their communities" when they pay less, he argued.

'Realising potential'

In 2001 the then Tory leader William Hague pledged to cut taxes by 8bn if the party won the general election.

But Mr Howard did not commit himself to any specific reductions or any timescale for implementing them.

"The best way government can help people is to give them the opportunities to make the most of their potential" he wrote in the newspaper on Sunday.

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The son of poor immigrants to Britain, Mr Howard said he was lucky because he got the opportunity to go to grammar school.

His credentials as a future prime minister were praised by former Tory frontbencher John Bercow.

But Mr Bercow told GMTV's Sunday programme: "The priority for Tories are public service policies which must come before any obsession with tax cuts."

Mr Howard has said that if he remains the only candidate he will seek the endorsement of the whole party in a vote of grass roots members.

A survey for BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend suggests he is likely to get widespread support - 63 of the 70 constituency chairmen contacted said they thought he would improve Tory prospects at the next election.


Fellow Tory and old adversary of Mr Howard, Ann Widdecombe, voiced some words of warning to her potential new boss.

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Ms Widdecombe said Mr Howard would need to "broaden" the agenda and vision he had when, as home secretary, he took the "took the criminal justice system from left to right almost single handedly".

They say they will cut taxes and make big improvements in public services at one and the same time. It cannot be done
Charles Kennedy

She said tough measures needed to be coupled with "real efforts to make communities safer and pleasanter".

The former Home Office minister once famously said her former boss had "something of the night" about him as he battled for the leadership in 1997.

Now she says he will have to learn to "listen and win over".

"It is vital that he surrounds himself with loyal friends who are more than capable of standing up to his juggernaut approach," she wrote in the newspaper.

Past battles?

Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost: "Michael Howard is a pretty clearly defined politician. There is something of the right about Michael Howard. He was the pioneer of the poll tax, he presided over an increase in unemployment of a million..."

But shadow health secretary Liam Fox, Mr Howard's campaign manager, said he was happy for Labour to dwell on the past because the Conservatives were talking about potential solutions for future.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said his selection as leader would be a "classic example of back to the future" by the Tories.

Speaking at the Scottish Liberal Democrats' conference in Dunfermline on Saturday, Mr Kennedy said the Conservatives' policies "simply don't add up".

Meanwhile, former defence secretary Michael Portillo refused to say whether or not he would join Mr Howard's shadow cabinet, saying he did not expect to be asked.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"This weekend Mr Howard has been relaxing"

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