Cameron accused of 'trashing' Tory heritage

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Indy Politics

David Cameron's leadership was under renewed pressure today after a Tory grandee accused him of "trashing" the party's heritage.

Former chairman and deputy leader Michael Ancram urged Mr Cameron to give the party back its "soul" by returning to core values on issues like tax, Europe and marriage.

In a 30-page document that amounts to an alternative 'traditionalist' manifesto, Mr Ancram denounced efforts to present the Conservatives as the "heir to Blair", and insisted they should instead embrace Thatcherite achievements.

While he applauds some of his leader's policies and the proposals emerging from policy review groups, the intervention by the MP for Devizes has inevitably been viewed as an attack on Mr Cameron's push to move the Conservatives into the political centre ground.

He is the most senior traditionalist Tory so far to "go public" with criticism of Mr Cameron's approach, although others have expressed concerns in private.

The comments also threatened to overshadow a report launched today by the public services review.

The group, headed by former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell, is proposing a raft of measures including giving council tenants state aid worth 10% of the value of their home to help them buy a property.

The scheme is designed to break up "ghetto" estates by encouraging social housing tenants to get a foot on the first rung of the private property ladder.

If they left the social rented sector, they would receive the share as a cash payment towards the price of their first property, in what would amount to a major extension of the Thatcher government's right-to-buy scheme.

Speaking at the launch of the report in central London, Mr Dorrell denied that Mr Cameron was "trashing" the party's history, and insisted it was vital to take the centre ground.

"The only way (parties) can come first in our system is by reaching out beyond your comfort zones," he said.

"When they are reaching out to the centre ground they have some chance of building the coalition which our electoral system demands."

Giving his monthly press conference in Downing Street, Prime Minister Gordon Brown weighed into the row by claiming there were "two factions" in the Tory Party, and accused Mr Cameron of "a failure of leadership".

"If I may say so, I think the problems with the Conservative Party today are this: that there are two factions in the Conservative Party, which became obvious this morning with the intervention from Ancram... and the leader is a prisoner of the factions."