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EDITIONS
Friday, 19 July, 2002, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Clarke attacks student tuition fees
Ken Clarke chats to a busker
Ken Clarke chats to a busker in Cardiff city centre
Conservative leadership candidate Ken Clarke a second campaign visit to south Wales with just a week to go before the party elects a new figurehead.

He is holding a business breakfast meeting with Welsh Tories at a hotel in Usk.

Mr Clarke and rival leadership hopeful Iain Duncan Smith had come under fire for not including Wales in their regional hustings tours.

But the former chancellor, 60, is expected to stress the Conservatives can only win a general election with Welsh votes.

The Tory party does not have any MPs in Wales, but Welsh Conservative leader in the National Assembly, Nick Bourne, has backed Mr Clarke's bid to succeed William Hague.

During a walkabout in Cardiff, Tory leadership contender Ken Clarke said he would consider bringing back student grants.

In the capital as part of his campaign to win the party leadership contest, he told 23-year-old medical student Lisa Williams he was "amazed" Labour had "got away" with abolishing grants.


You cannot form a government of the UK if you cannot win in Wales

Tory leadership contender Ken Clarke
By coming to Wales this weekend, Mr Clarke hopes to steal a march on his rival Iain Duncan Smith.

He is due to visit in three weeks time and with up to 15,000 party members across Wales, making an impression could prove crucial in the final ballot in September.

But however popular Mr Clarke may be with ordinary people, becoming Conservative leader depends on the support of party members.

And at a private meeting of Welsh members at a Cardiff hotel, he promised if elected to appoint a spokesman for Wales to the shadow cabinet.

But as he took time out to talk with the general public, it was the scrapping of student grants and the introduction of tuition fees that caught his attention.

"I am amazed that the Labour Government got away with it," he told Ms Williams.

He went on to say he had discussed the issue with the former Tory Prime Minister John Major and said: "We wouldn't have done anything like that. It's draconian."


We haven't got a solitary MP in Wales. We need to excite your interest

Ken Clarke
After speaking to medical representative Sian Horne, 35, the former chancellor also vowed to "excite interest".

He told Ms Horne: "We haven't got a solitary MP in Wales. We need to excite your interest.

"None of the political parties are impressing anybody very much - they are not offering anybody anything. Do you agree?

"I think all this business of making it easier to get postal votes is missing the problem.

"It's not that people can't get to the polling station - they just cannot see the point in going there."

'Public service crisis'

He also said that devolution had helped the party's cause as the presence of Tory Assembly Members had kept its presence alive in Wales.

"You cannot form a government of the UK if you cannot win in Wales," he added.

" "This is a good place to come to find out what has gone wrong.

"In the last election, I think we were on the wrong subject. People in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, wanted to hear more about the present crisis in public services.

"They wanted to hear more about the economy. Gordon Brown was given a very easy ride.

"But the Conservatives seemed to be somewhere else and not really looking like a party of government."

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's Catrin Evans
"With no Tory MPs in Wales, his supporters say he's the man to revive the party's electoral hopes here."

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19 Jul 02 | UK Politics
27 Jun 01 | UK
23 Jul 01 | UK Politics
18 Jul 01 | UK Politics
26 Jul 01 | UK Politics
27 Jul 01 | UK Politics
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