Geldof joins Tory poverty group - but not the party

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Indy Politics

Bob Geldof has agreed to work with the Tories on a world poverty group being set up by David Cameron, the Conservative leader.

Mr Cameron has appointed Peter Lilley, a former Cabinet minister, to head the commission. His co-operation with Mr Geldof, who has warmly praised Tony Blair's initiatives at the G8 for Africa, will be seen as a further attempt to steer the Tories towards "caring Conservatism".

Senior Tories emphasised that Mr Geldof was acting in a non-party role. "There is no question of Sir Bob joining the Conservatives," said a Tory source. "While remaining entirely non-partisan, Bob will work with the group to bring his influence to bear in order to help us go in the direction that he and we both want."

Mr Cameron said: "This summer, millions of British people took part in the Make Poverty History campaign. A new generation of concerned citizens want prosperity for themselves and progress for the poor - whether living on the other side of the street or the other side of the world. Modern, compassionate Conservatism means responding to their demands."

He added: "I believe that Conservatives have a vital contribution to make to the debate about globalisation and global poverty.

"I hope our policy group will develop ideas to enable the economic empowerment of the poorest people - for example through property rights... to promote economic development and wealth creation. I'm delighted Sir Bob Geldof... has agreed to work in consultation with the group."

The former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, warned Mr Cameron yesterday not to be "obsessed" by Tony Blair. He said the priority was to "put the squeeze" on the Liberal Democrats. That meant coming up with policies to benefit people who might never vote Tory, said the MP heading the Tories' social justice commission.

"We have to show we understand that a party that governs has to have a strong message for people who may never vote for it," he said. "Family breakdown, addiction, crime, pensioners who can't go on the street. That is our battleground." That must take precedence over trying to force Mr Blair out of office, he told BBC Radio.