Former Chancellor Warns Tories Could Become Unelectable
Former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke has stepped up his leadership campaign by warning that the Tory party could make itself "unelectable" if he does not win. He said if the party was "perceived to swing further to the ideological right" and to "become a hard-line nationalist and anti-European party" then it would have no chance of regaining power.
Mr Clarke wrote to Conservative MPs accusing the other five leadership candidates of having policies on Europe that would mean the Tories being marginalised to the "political fringe".
"Four of the candidates are against the single currency `in principle'. The
fifth (Mr Dorrell) says that we should declare that no more work should be done
on the project. I believe such policies would drive us to the political fringe both at home and in European politics," he said.
Mr Clarke said that he was a politician of the "centre right" who had been "at the heart of the Conservative revolution", driving through reforms in
the health service and education.
The former Chancellor, who was the first to declare as a contender for the Tory leadership after the party's election defeat but has run a fairly low-profile campaign until now, wrote in the letter, "I believe I can provide the leadership we need in the battles ahead and lead us back into government."
The Other Contenders
Former minister Peter Luff, MP for Mid Worcestershire, and Shaun
Woodward, the new Tory MP for Witney, have announced their support for Stephen Dorrell.
Mr Woodward said the party members in his constituency thought that Mr Dorrell
"would be most likely to unite the party and offer a
fresh face with experience, as opposed to simply jumping a generation...They don't want to come behind people who want to take the party off to the far right. They want to get behind someone who holds that centre-ground."
Another contender, Michael Howard, has suffered a setback after being criticised by former ministers Anne Widdecombe and Charles Wardell.
Meanwhile the battle is to continue on Tuesday when both John Redwood and Peter Lilley have scheduled rival news conferences.