Right of Reply: Michael Ancram MP

Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party replies to David Aaronovitch' s recent comments
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DAVID AARONOVITCH says that the party reforms we have implemented over the last year are like whistling in the dark. He couldn't be more wrong. Party reform is essential if we are to return to power. We have to show that we understand why we lost the last general election, that we are changing to become a more open, listening party.

That is exactly what we've been doing. We've set up a tough, new ethics and integrity committee, to make sure that the behaviour of a few individuals can never again damage the reputation of the whole party. We've given our members an equal say in the election of our leader and we are encouraging more young people to join our party.

Contrary to what Mr Aaronovitch may think, we are listening. Listening to businessmen whose companies are being crippled by higher interest rates and higher taxes. Listening to farmers who have been abandoned by a Government that doesn't care for the countryside. Listening to doctors and nurses about Labour's betrayal of its promises on the NHS.

This week, we are moving on, leaving the divisions on the single currency behind us. The emphatic result of the ballot ends the argument. Everyone now knows that those who disagree with the policy speak only for themselves, not for the party. At last we can speak on this issue with certainty and clarity, and on other subjects, without one hand tied behind our backs.

Mr Aaronovitch asks what the Conservative Party is for. Unlike Labour, we are a party of beliefs. Our values are shared by the majority of the British people: freedom, support for the family, enterprise, a belief in the unity and independence of the nation. New Labour cannot stand for these things. We can and will.