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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Leak warns 'out of touch' Tories

William Hague is warned against over-stressing marriage
Following New Labour's run of damaging leaks of internal memos, the Conservative Party suffered one of its own with a document warning William Hague the party was in danger of being out of touch with the public on the family.

The Conservative Policy Forum (CPF), an in-house think tank that looks at issues of interest to the party rank and file, said that although members still supported "traditional" family values, it could prove "politically unwise" to over-emphasise marriage.

The report, leaked to The Independent newspaper, also warned that the Tories' backing for traditional family values may only end up putting off more people than it attracts.

The Conservatives have stressed their support for the traditional family following the leak of a memo by Tony Blair last month.

In it the prime minister admitted he believed his government was perceived as being weak on the family.

The leaked Tory report revealed that the vast majority of grassroots members did not define single mothers as forming families.

It also found that there was overwhelming opposition among party members to the inclusion of overtly homosexual or lesbian couples in any definitions of the family.

'Inclusiveness'


Ivan Massow with Mo Mowlam on the day of his defection to Labour
Although the report's appearance in the press is not as damaging as the series of leaks that hit Labour, Tory grassroots' opposition to other families is likely to alarm liberal Conservatives.

The report comes hard on the heels of the defection to Labour last week of former Tory mayoral candidate Ivan Massow.

Mr Massow, a millionaire gay businessman, attacked his former party as "intolerant" and "just plain nasty".

Tory backbencher Peter Bottomley, a founder of the Conservative Family Forum, dismissed the notion that the CPF report was confidential.

He said it had been sent to 270 groups around the country, who were free to publicise it if they wished.

The Worthing West MP rejected suggestions that it revealed prejudice within Tory ranks against those who do not fit into the traditional family structure.

"There are plenty of reasons why married couples do very well and why children brought up by their biological parents do better, but that is no reason to damn the widow or damn anybody," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Neither Margaret Thatcher nor John Major nor William Hague is anti-anybody. We are for good politics and that brings the family into account.

"The inclusiveness of the Conservative Party is demonstrated by the fact that we are likely to be the first party to have somebody who is black or Asian as prime minister and we are likely to be the first party to make the colour of someone's skin as unimportant as the colour of their eyes or hair."

Asked whether this inclusiveness stretched to include gay people, he said: "The same applies."

The former minister also gave a definition of the Tory concept of "the family", saying: "The majority of people responding to this Conservative Party forum believe that a family relationship is one where you care for each other in the same household or you care for each other whether or not you necessarily live together."

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Tory adviser defects to Labour
02 Aug 00 | UK Politics
A trio of defections
19 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair braced for more leaks
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