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Last Updated: Monday, 14 November 2005, 14:26 GMT
Davis and Cameron go head to head
David Cameron and David Davis at last week's Conservative women's conference
The candidates face a long series of hustings
Conservative leadership contenders David Cameron and David Davis have taken part in the first of a series of head-to-head debates across Britain.

The two candidates to replace Michael Howard appeared before party activists at hustings in Leicester.

Mr Davis told BBC Radio 4's The World at One the "collective view" was he had won the debate, adding that voters would prefer his "principled politics".

Mr Cameron is the bookmakers' favourite to win the contest.

'Things build up'

The event, closed to the media, was held at Leicester's Walkers Stadium and came after Mr Cameron received the backing of former party leader William Hague.

Mr Davis, shadow home secretary, said: "Today was a victory for me, as was Question Time. All these things build up."

HAVE YOUR SAY
David Cameron will probably win the vote because he has the better PR support
Philip Ross, Winchester

He added: "A large number of people haven't made up their minds."

Mr Davis said of Mr Cameron: "His strategy is more like the early Blair strategy.

"Our argument today in the hall was that it would be rather ironic if we started to try Blair's approach at the time when the public at large are getting rather sick of it."

Mr Davis said that the available information indicated most Tory members had not yet voted, leaving the race more open.

'Slightly more modern'

MP Anne Main, a convert from Mr Davis to his rival, said Mr Cameron would "surround himself with an excellent team", if he became leader, which in turn would create policies of "substance".

Mr Cameron's team was showing a "slightly more modern approach, a softer approach".

These could "appeal to a broader base than some of the language and marketing techniques used by the Davis team", she added.

Party members have until 5 December to cast their vote in the leadership election.

The rival camps hope the series of hustings across the UK will help party members reach a decision.

There will be 11 events, with debates held in every region of England, as well as one in Scotland and another in Wales.

Mr Hague revealed his support for Mr Cameron to become the next party leader in a News of the World column.

He said the 39-year-old was the best candidate to modernise the Tory party, inspire voters and challenge Labour.

Mr Hague added the shadow education secretary had "a certain quality" that was impossible to define, "but you know it when you see it".

The last leadership hopeful to be eliminated, Liam Fox, has also backed Mr Cameron over David Davis, although he told the Sunday Times it was a "close call".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
What local Tories thought about the first debate



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