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Sunday, 2 January, 2000, 16:03 GMT
Norris warns against move to right

steve norris Steven Norris: "Temptation has to be avoided"


London mayoral hopeful Steven Norris has joined the growing number of Conservative heavyweights warning the party against a lurch to the right.

London Mayor
He said the party had to avoid going for "cheap cheers" at its annual conference and, instead, ensure that it appealed to the 40% of people needed to win an election.

His comments followed similar warnings from former Prime Minister John Major and former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke.

Mr Norris told BBC Radio 4's World This Weekend programme: "It is perfectly natural, it is almost a dynamic of politics, for parties to want to regress to what they regard as their traditional heartlands.

"Whether that's Labour in the 70s and 80s moving very much to the left or the Conservatives being tempted at least to move to the far right as we enter this new millennium, I think that is a temptation which is siren but has to be avoided.

"The problem is you get a great cheer at your party conference, but you will be addressing an ever-diminishing audience."

He said more liberal-minded Conservatives had been worried by the party's attitude towards opposing the abolition of Clause 28 on promoting homosexuality in schools.

'Mainstream'

"The problem is whenever a party is looking for some comfort, some support, in a sense for the easy cheers, they will always be found on the extremes of a particular party's positioning.

"If the Tories were to move back to what they saw as a traditionalist, hard-line, right-wing, law-and-order party that was nationalistic, antipathetic to minorities and so on then, again, it might appeal to a very small section of the population but it will never appeal to the 40 odd per cent of the population it needs if it is going to win power."

Mr Norris said he believed Tory leader William Hague was still in the mainstream of public opinion, although he had moved the party to the right of John Major.

"I have every faith in William Hague's judgment," added Mr Norris. "He is well aware (that) if he is actually going to win power for the party at the next election, he has simply got to stay in touch with the mainstream of public opinion."

Mr Hague flew to the United States with his wife Ffion for a skiing holiday this weekend.

He shrugged off Mr Major's attack, saying there had been no shift to the right and that the party had had a successful year and had won the European elections.

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See also:
30 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Hague denies drift to right
28 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Clarke savages Hague's leadership
12 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Norris: Car salesman driven to office

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