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William Hague, Conservative Party leader
"The things I have been saying are One Nation Toryism"
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Sunday, 7 May, 2000, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
'Tories must appeal to moderates'
Rifkind graphic
Party members heard Sir Malcolm's message on Sunday
Former Tory Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind has told a gathering of Scots Conservatives that if the party it to win the next election it needs to appeal to the moderates.

His message will be interpreted by many as a public rebuke to leader William Hague who has been accused of shifting from the centre ground to the right on issues like asylum seekers.

During his speech to party members at Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, on Sunday, Sir Malcolm urged Scots Tories to target moderate and uncommitted supporters of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.

He claims that many Liberal Democrat and SNP supporters are closer to the Tories on issues like tax, parental choice and home ownership.

'Scottish quality'

Sir Malcolm, president of the Scottish Tories, said: "But to win their support will require hard effort, attractive policies and a moderate rhetoric.

"The Scots Tories under David McLetchie are showing themselves to have such qualities at Holyrood."

He warned: "That is also the task of the Conservative Party as a whole as we approach the general election."

As we approach the general election, we should have no illusions about the mountain we have to climb

Sir Malcolm Rifkind
In his speech, Sir Malcolm cited the Tories' success at winning the Scottish Parliament by-election at Ayr but failure in the Romsey by-election on Thursday as evidence of a period of "electoral uncertainty" for all parties.

"Only one thing is clear. Labour is in deep trouble.

"Whether in Scotland, London, Wales or England, they are being hammered because of the deep disillusion of their traditional supporters.

"But as we approach the general election, we should have no illusions about the mountain we have to climb."

'Major opportunities'

He claimed the Scottish Tories, and not just the SNP, could benefit from disillusionment among Labour supporters.

With the home rule row over, and with the Scottish Tories now devolved from the party in London, the party in Scotland had major opportunities.

"Many who have voted SNP in the past are satisfied with a Scottish Parliament within the UK and do not support the SNP's demand for separation.

"Nor do they approve of SNP support for higher taxes, their endorsement of CND, or the republican sympathies of many SNP MPs and activists.

"Likewise, many who have voted Liberal Democrat in recent years dislike the Lab-Lib coalition at Holyrood. They see the Liberals having sacrificed principles for office, and are unaware of what the party stands for today."

But when William Hague was challenged about accusations he was steering his party away from the political ground, he remained defiant.

He told David Frost on the BBC's Forst programme: "The things I have been saying are One Nation Toryism.

"We mustn't pull back at all from the positions I have taken on asylum, crime, Europe and so on in recent months.

"That is what appeals across the political spectrum."

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See also:

04 May 00 | Local elections
Hague savours local victories
05 May 00 | UK Politics
Romsey defeat mars Tories' night
15 Mar 00 | Scotland
Tories walking on Ayr
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