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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 October 2005, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Fox sets out 'bold' Tory agenda
Liam Fox

Liam Fox has staked his claim on the Tory leadership with a call for the Conservative Party to "get off its knees" and shape Britain's future.

In a speech to the party's annual conference in Blackpool, Dr Fox pledged to repair Britain's "broken society" and restore national pride.

And aiming squarely at the Eurosceptic wing of the party, he called for an end to "ever closer union" with Europe.

Rival David Davis earlier called on the party to "walk tall again".

Clues

Mr Davis told the party's annual conference in Blackpool it needed a "new idealism and sense of purpose".

He could "set a course which can unite all sections of the party" and was "the right course for Britain".

In his 23 minute speech strong on patriotism and national identity, Dr Fox said: "We have spent so long focusing on diversity we have forgotten what we have in common. Free speech. A fair rule of law. Our history and heritage. Economic liberty. And democratic government based at Westminster."

CONFERENCE RATING
CV: Liam Fox, 46, shadow foreign secretary
Key Quote:"You don't set an agenda for your future by trashing your past."
Best joke: "I play tennis with David Cameron and we're friends even though he beats me - though I do not intend to make habit of it."
Ovations: 23 rounds of applause and a two minute standing ovation finale
Speech length: 23 minutes
Name drops: Paid tribute to all of his leadership rivals and Michael Howard
Nick Assinder's verdict: Fox won over conference by waving the Union Flag

He hit back at people who criticised his idea that all schools in the UK should fly the "union flag", saying "by what possible stretch of the meaning of the word could even the most crazed member of the politically correct brigade regard flying your own flag outside your own schools as racist?"

He also became the only Tory leadership contender to mention Iraq in his conference speech, saying although he "resented the way we were misled" into war in Iraq, the Middle East was a better place without Saddam Hussein.

He said he wanted British troops to come home from Iraq as soon as possible, but he wanted them to do so "with honour and pride...knowing that their sacrifices have given hope to those who could not help themselves."

On the domestic front, he called for "less regulation, better education and lower taxes" and he pledged to heal what he called Britain's "broken society", calling for action on issues neglected by Labour such as mental health and domestic violence.

Dr Fox said he went to a comprehensive school and his grandfathers "were both miners," but, in a thinly veiled attack on Mr Davis who made much of his humble beginnings, he added "none of these are reasons for me to become the next leader of the Conservative Party."

"We should elect leaders because of where they are going to - not where they have come from," he said, to laughter from representatives.

On Europe, he said "The inevitable destination of 'ever closer union' is union. The Conservative Party should never accept that Britain's destiny lies in a United States of Europe."

Rivals

He called for the Conservatives should end its association with its centre right grouping in the European Parliament, the European People's Party, saying the Tories should form a new "pro-market, non-integrationist and Atlantacist" group.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Ken Clarke and David Cameron have all impressed in leadership bid speeches earlier this week.

LEADERSHIP RULES
Tory MPs vote on 18 October, with candidate receiving fewest votes dropping out
MPs then vote on successive Tuesdays and Thursdays until there are two candidates left
The wider Conservative Party membership then votes on which is to be leader
The winner of the process is expected to be announced in early December

Mr Davis has already got pledges of support from enough MPs to virtually guarantee he makes it to the run-off vote by party members.

On Tuesday Ken Clarke said the Conservatives must pick a "bigger beast" than Tony Blair or Gordon Brown to ensure they defeat Labour at the next election.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron said at 38 he was not too young to lead the party, and had the ideas to turn it around.

He sought to make his youth a virtue by saying he wanted to change the party, to make people "feel good about being Conservatives again".

Sir Malcolm, a 50 to 1 outsider with the bookmakers - who admitted he had a "mountain to climb" to win the leadership - said the Conservatives could only win the next election from the centre ground.



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