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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Tories stage Dragons' Den contest
The Dragon's Den series
Ex-Dragon Rachel Elnaugh (centre, back) will address the Tories
Ann Widdecombe will star in the Tories' own version of television series Dragons' Den as the party tries to liven up its autumn conference.

The gathering in Bournemouth next month will see Tory candidates mimic the TV series by pitching their policy ideas to Ms Widdecombe and other "dragons".

There will also be Who Wants To Be A Millionaire style ask-the-audience electronic votes on conference motions.

High profile figures from outside the party will also address the conference.

Conservative chairman Francis Maude said: "Political debate is flourishing.

"From global questions like tackling climate change to issues closer to home like school dinners, people have got a lot to say.

"At Bournemouth, we hope to reflect this energy and passion and fire the public's imagination by having more interactive, lively, thoughtful and passionate debates at conference."

Presidential hopeful

BBC2's Dragons' Den sees hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors they need to fund their schemes.

The Tory version will see candidates on the party's A-list - and those already chosen to fight seats at the next election - do the same thing, pitching policy ideas to Ms Widdecombe and other pannellists.

Ann Widdecombe
Ms Widdecombe is likely to be forthright about policy ideas

Rachel Elnaugh, a former panellist on the TV show, is one of the speakers at the conference. Her firm, Red Letter Days, went into administration before it was bailed out by two of the other dragons on the show.

The conference audience will also be able to text comments onto a screen on the stage.

The Conservatives are also boasting a line-up of well-known speakers, headed by Republican senator and possible presidential contender John McCain.

Other speakers include UN deputy secretary general Mark Malloch Brown, former editor Rosie Boycott, the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali and centre left thinker Will Hutton.

Environmental writers Richard D North and George Monbiot, children's charity chief Camila Batmanghelidjh, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti and Big Issue founder John Bird will also take part during the conference in the first week of October.

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