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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Moral values call to Tory leader
Michael Howard
The race to succeed Michael Howard is gathering pace
Conservative traditionalists have entered the fledgling Tory leadership contest by urging whoever becomes next leader to tackle liberal attitudes.

A group of "socially conservative" Tory MPs say the party should echo George W Bush's "faith, flag and family" slogan.

Tory MP Edward Leigh has criticised his party's election campaign for being too "managerial" and says vision is needed.

His call comes after frontbencher Alan Duncan said the "Tory Taleban" risked consigning the party to oblivion.

Mr Duncan criticised the party's "moralising wing" over social attitudes.

'Boring contest'

Mr Leigh's comments mark a counter-offensive against Tory "modernisers" in the pamphlet from the new Cornerstone Group of about 25 MPs.

He told BBC News: "If we were the Tory Taleban, why are we articulating the views of so many people?"

He wants the Tories to stress their core values with a "radical tax cutting agenda", including flat tax rates and tax relief for private health insurance, as well as traditional moral values.

The Conservative Party has deserted conservative Britain, and so Britons have deserted us
Edward Leigh
Conservative MP

"We need to pull no punches," said Mr Leigh.

"At the moment this leadership election is frankly rather boring. It's full of platitudes about having to reach out - of course we must do that but it's not enough."

He argues the Tories must put "clear blue water" between themselves and their opponents and not just become a "pale imitation of New Labour".

In the pamphlet, the Gainsborough MP says tradition, the nation, family and free enterprise represent the preoccupations of most Britons.

"In the USA too, these core conservative issues excite voters. George Bush understands this and wins," he says.

"Strangely, the Conservative Party has deserted conservative Britain, and so Britons have deserted us."

Patten endorsement?

Mr Leigh argues that Conservatives must openly say they believe "traditional families" where men and women commit to each other is an ideal.

He argues politicians should not be scared of being accused of "moralising".

All the potential leadership candidates will have the chance to speak on the platform at the Conservative conference in October - a week before nominations close for the leadership election.

Former Conservative chairman Chris Patten stopped short of endorsing any candidate in an interview for the Guardian newspaper.

But he praised both David Willetts and David Cameron for being "thoughtful and sensible".

He said it might be time for the party to "jump a generation" and go for somebody younger like Mr Cameron.

Lord Patten said he did not really know David Davis, the bookmakers' favourite to be the next leader.

Asked if Mr Davis' more populist approach could revive Tory fortunes, he replied: "The Conservative Party keeps on electing leaders of the opposition, and it's about time we elected somebody who would be a prime minister.

"I don't think the Conservative Party does itself any favours by talking to itself."


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