Party needs 'One Nation' policies with inclusive appeal, warns Major

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John Major gave a coded warning to William Hague last night not to forget Britain's ethnic minorities and the poor as the Tory party geared up to face the next general election.

John Major gave a coded warning to William Hague last night not to forget Britain's ethnic minorities and the poor as the Tory party geared up to face the next general election.

In his first public contribution at the Conservative party conference since he left office in 1997, the former prime minister told a fringe meeting that Conservatives should be "inclusive" and proud of standing for their "One Nation" tradition.

Mr Major also delivered a withering attack on Labour, deriding its strategy during the last Parliament of painting the Tories as a "sleaze" party and pointing out the Government's own personal problems.

He told Conservative Mainstream that it wasn't enough that the party represented the views and aspirations of Middle England and rural areas more effectively than any other party in the country.

"We must reach out to all. The people in slums, the people in need, the people outside the circle of rising prosperity, the black and brown and yellow Britons who are as much a part of our society as I am. Our policies and our party are for them as much as for anyone else," he said.

Later, he added: "I'm a Tory. I'm a Tory who believes in the politics of binding up wounds. I'm a Tory who believes that consensus and understanding the points of view of others is a strength and not a weakness. Our party has had its greatest triumphs when it reached out. Now we are reaching out again."

Relishing his chance to set the record straight over his own tenure, Mr Major devoted the greater part of his address to bitter criticism of Labour's emphasis on "sleaze".

"Certainly some MPs in our party did us great harm. But to hang individual misdemeanours around the neck of a political party, which at the time was led by the likes of Douglas Hurd, Michael Heseltine, Ken Clarke, Paddy Mayhew, Ian Lang and Peter Brooke, is simply the cynical tactics of smear," he said.

In his most personal assault to date on the current Government, Mr Major went on to highlight the individual failings of Robin Cook, Peter Mandelson, Ron Davies and Geoffrey Robinson.

The current Government was "the master of nods and winks, of innuendo, of phoney figures, of hidden tax rises", he said, referring to its record on the New Deal and the Ecclestone affair.

Mr Major also attacked Mr Blair for failing to tell the whole truth over the Kosovo conflict, claiming that "much of what we were told during the Kosovo war turns out to be either disingenuous or plain wrong".

Senior Tories were relieved that Mr Major remained loyal on the issue of Europe, even to the extent of declaring that he would vote No in a referendum.

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