On the Leadership Trail
Several Tory leadership contenders have this weekend been completing a
hectic tour of the regions. The contenders have been out on the road to meet party activists who cannot take part in the vote, because they are not MPs, but who the contestants hope will be able to influence MPs in their favour.
In addition many MPs have been meeting their constituency parties this weekend to discuss who they should support, and a flurry of public endorsements are expected early next week.
Michael Howard addressed party activists in Manchester on Saturday and emphasised that the fight back against Labour should begin at local level, with the local government elections between now and the next general election.
A Howard campaign source said the former Home Secretary had been getting a
"very positive" response from activists, including in Ulster which he visited
Mr Howard said he considered himself to be "absolutely still in the race" despite former Prisons Minister Ann Widdecombe's public attack on his sacking of Prison Service director general Derek Lewis.
Continuing his hectic tour with Cardiff and Bristol, the former Home Secretary is due to take his campaign to and Leeds, Edinburgh and Cambridgeshire today.
Dorrell: says the path to recovery is close
Former Health Secretary, Stephen Dorrell, campaigning in North Wales on Saturday morning, before moving on to Manchester, launched into an attack on Labour and promised that the Conservatives would "seize the truth". He said the British people were in for "a huge disappointment" under Labour and that the Tories' "path to recovery" was closer than might be thought.
"Blair has held out the prospect of putting right all the difficulties in
health, education, housing, unemployment and social services," said Mr
Dorrell.But when you try to pin him down on policies you quickly discover that there is no substance. A huge disappointment is looming for many people...My message to all those people who now regret staying away from the polling
station and allowing Labour their landslide is: do not be downhearted. The path
to recovery is closer than you might think."
Mr Hague, who has attracted the support of former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth,denounced the Government's proposed windfall tax on the
profits of privatised utilities, claiming that the policy would lead to higher prices and lost jobs.
"Labour's tax will cost real jobs in our utilities to shore up a Government
scheme which offers no one a job at the end of it," he said.
Meanwhile, former Social Security Secretary, Peter Lilley, has been campaigning
in Birmingham, and Edinburgh and is set to finish off his tour in London on Sunday. Mr Lilley told Tories in Edinburgh that the present referendum plan was a "constitutional outrage", and that there should be a poll which must offer three choices: no change, devolution, or full independence outside the UK.
"Asking people to sign a contract before they have even read the small print
smacks of the timeshare salesmen on the Costa Brava. But to ask people to sign up before the small print has even been written
adds insult to injury," he said.
He said he was confident that only a minority of Scots wanted full independence
but if a devolved parliament was set up then the Tories would work to ensure a big presence in the new body.
Mr Lilley has attracted the support of the former chairman of the Conservative Backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Marcus Fox.
The Latest Odds
The first round of voting will be on the following Tuesday, June 10.
Bookmaker William Hill puts Mr Clarke as the punters' favourite today, and
has cut his odds from 7/4 to even money, while former odds-on favourite William
Hague, the former Welsh Secretary, has slid from 8/11 to 6/5 second favourite.
Hill is offering 5/1 on Mr Lilley, 11/1 on Mr Howard, 25/1 on former Welsh
Secretary John Redwood and 33/1 on Mr Dorrell.
The Leadership Race