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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 November, 2004, 14:27 GMT
Howard: 'Tories ready for power'
Michael Howard
Howard said the Tories had made "great progress" during the year
Michael Howard has marked his first anniversary as leader by saying the Tories are now "able, ready and determined" to seize power.

They now had more members than Labour and the Lib Dems combined, he added.

But Labour said his lack of judgment throughout his first year proved Mr Howard was unfit to be prime minister.

And the Liberal Democrats said he had made no progress on the position in which his predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith, had left the party.

Mr Duncan Smith himself - in an interview with the Times newspaper - urged Mr Howard to change his policies to appeal to young voters, people from ethnic minorities, and the downtrodden.

Mr Howard said the Tories had made "great progress" during the past year, with 300 more councillors making them the biggest party in local government.

"The party's confidence has been restored, and its electoral position greatly strengthened," he added.

We have more to do in the months that are left before the general election
Tory leader, Michael Howard
"We have exposed effectively the failings of a discredited and divided government.

"We have put together an exciting platform of policies on the issues which really matter to people - cleaner hospitals, school discipline, controlled immigration, more police and lower taxes - and demonstrated how we will put them into practice in a way which is accountable to the British people.

"We have more to do in the months that are left before the general election.

"But we begin this long campaign in good heart.

"The British people deserve so much better.

"It is our duty to deliver that."

On this, the most basic test of leadership, Michael Howard has failed
Labour general election co-ordinator Alan Milburn

In a two-page dossier on Mr Howard's achievements, the Tories also highlighted successes in European elections, improved party finances, new offices, a new campaign director and greater diversity among candidates.

And Conservative Party co-chairman Liam Fox told BBC News voters were experiencing a period of "intense disillusionment" with Labour.

But in a nine-page dossier on Mr Howard's record, Labour said Mr Howard had shown misjudgement on public services, Europe and Iraq, and was retreating to the right because of his failure to make an impact.

Labour general election co-ordinator Alan Milburn said: "Political leadership requires conviction and consistency.

"Above all, leadership is a question of judgment.

Effective alternative

"On this, the most basic test of leadership, Michael Howard has failed."

Lib Dem parliamentary party chairman Matthew Taylor said: "His party continues to flat-line in the polls.

"He has proved himself incapable of effectively holding the government to account.

"It is small wonder that on issues such as pensions, crime, schools, hospitals, and the war in Iraq people are increasingly turning to the Liberal Democrats as the only effective alternative to Labour."

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