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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Tories 'must change to win power'
Michael Howard
Mr Howard said the candidates realised the party needed to change
The Conservative Party will have to change if it is to win back power, the outgoing leader Michael Howard has said ahead of the party's autumn conference.

Mr Howard said the party could not rely on the pendulum swinging in its favour.

"And to be fair I don't think any of the candidates for the leadership are saying that," he told the BBC.

The five candidates vying to take Mr Howard's place are due to speak at the Blackpool gathering, where party members have begun arriving.

He said: "We have to make a greater and a different effort to show the people of our country that we understand the challenges that face them."

He said the party had to demonstrate it was in a position where it could "deliver on the things they want from their government."

'Reach all parts'

Ahead of the gathering, David Davis said he was the "Heineken" candidate who could help the Tories reach voters in all parts of Britain.

Mr Davis' aides say he is on the brink of getting the MPs' support needed to enter the contest's final round.

But rival Ken Clarke says he is the only candidate with the centre ground views needed to win back power.

All the candidates will have the chance to speak from the platform at the conference, which officially opens on Monday.

MPs will whittle down the field to two candidates to go to a vote of all 300,000 party members. The result is due on 6 December.

Ten more MPs have declared their support for Mr Davis taking his tally to 66 - exactly a third of the parliamentary party.

We have failed to maintain clear, up-to-date positions on the big issues that matter to the electorate
Ken Clarke
Ex-chancellor

His aides say he now just needs the support of one more MP to be guaranteed a place in the final ballot of party members.

But Mr Davis said he would not try to engineer who he faced in the final vote by encouraging some allies to support other candidates.

Asked about being the bookmakers' favourite, he told the BBC's Sunday AM: "I used to...climb mountains and the higher you got the more nervous you got.

"So there is an element of that about it."

The right-wing Cornerstone Group of MPs has threatened to field its own candidate, Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh, to secure its agenda of a flat tax, repeal of the human rights act and traditional policies on family values.

'Eurobores'

Mr Clarke says he will warn the Tories they risk remaining in "permanent opposition" unless they regain the centre ground of politics.

The ex-Cabinet minister told the Observer he would say he was the Tories' only "big beast" in a position to take on Gordon Brown.

The pro-Europe former chancellor said if his bid was blocked by Eurosceptics the party could be seen as "Eurobores".

We have got to change some of the culture and attitudes of the party
David Cameron

Mr Clarke said since the party's defeat in 1997 it had made itself appear increasingly "irrelevant" by failing to secure up-to-date policies on the big issues which mattered to voters.

Another candidate, shadow education secretary David Cameron, repeated his call for a change in "culture and identity" on ITV1's Dimbleby programme.

"There are some people who say we have just got to sit back and wait for [Gordon] Brown to be more left wing and the economy to go wrong.

"That is not going to work. We have got to change some of the culture and attitudes of the party."

'Dangerously presumptuous'

Leadership hopeful Liam Fox warned rivals it would be "dangerously presumptuous" to think they were through to the final round.

The shadow foreign secretary told ITV1 he welcomed the backing of Tory donor Stuart Wheeler, who once gave the party 5m.

The five declared candidates are Ken Clarke, David Davis, shadow foreign secretary Liam Fox, shadow education secretary David Cameron and shadow work and pensions secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

Other candidates, possibly including shadow culture secretary Theresa May and Edward Leigh, may decide to enter the contest when nominations officially open on 10 October.


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