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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Clarke insists he can win power
Ken Clarke with supporters on Tuesday
Ken Clarke is starting a tour of local Conservative activists
Conservative leadership challenger Kenneth Clarke has launched his campaign to woo grassroots support.

Under the slogan, "It's time to win", Mr Clarke said he was the man to take the Tories back to power.

The ex-chancellor, who lost out on the leadership in 1997 and 2001, said he was the "original moderniser" who could attract Labour and Lib Dem voters.

Meanwhile, David Davis, said to be the frontrunner to replace Michael Howard, has met party activists in Wales.

Will lead the Conservatives to victory at next election
Will win back voters who have drifted to Labour and Lib Dems
Will widen the party's appeal across all groups
Will accelerate Tory revival in local government, especially in urban and suburban areas
Will transform the party into a united modern campaigning force
Has the energy and desire to be prime minister

Nominations for the contest open on 10 October - after the party's conference in Blackpool - with the first round of voting among MPs taking place on Tuesday 18 October.

One candidate will drop out after each round and there will be votes every Thursday and Tuesdays until only two candidates remain.

There will then be a vote of the 300,000 Conservative Party members across the country to decide which of the two succeeds Michael Howard as leader.

Unity call

Mr Clarke unveiled six reasons to back his campaign, saying he could attract support from all groups of voters and transform the Conservatives into a "united modern campaigning force".

"I say to my fellow Conservatives: do not elect a man who wants to be leader of the Opposition; elect a leader who intends to be prime minister," he said.

Mr Clarke said he did not just want the dignity of office but wanted to improve public services, enhance prosperity, return integrity to government and tackle long-terms issues like pensions.

Tory leadership contenders

He described himself as a "provincial man" and pointed to opinion polls suggesting he was the most popular leadership candidate in all regions and across all groups.

Earlier, the Rushcliffe MP told BBC News the "inter-regnum" caused by the leadership contest - which will not be ended until at least early December - had given Labour a "bit of a free hit".

His pro-European values were blamed for his defeat in the 2001 leadership election but Mr Clarke argues UK adoption of the euro will not be on the agenda for the next 10 years.

"It is not relevant to British politics," he said.

But major Tory donor Stuart Wheeler said he would hesitate before giving money to a Clarke-led Conservative Party.

He said Europe remained a crucial issue and was worried Mr Clarke would not put his heart into getting major changes to the European Union.

Mr Davis - and shadow education secretary David Cameron - are expected to launch their campaigns on Thursday.


Mr Davis told BBC News he was happy with the fact that party members, rather than Tory MPs will have the final say on the new leader.

Mr Davis denied the party was currently "leaderless", saying Mr Howard would continue to hold the prime minister to account.

Shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox warned against seeing the "volatile" contest as a two-horse race.

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