Tories say they will stand up for society's dispossessed

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Indy Politics

David Cameron attempted to portray the Conservatives as the party of the dispossessed yesterday. He marked 100 days as party leader with a visit to the headquarters of the Big Issue magazine, while Oliver Letwin, the man charged with overhauling Tory policies, said he wanted the party to help the unemployed, homeless, refugees and drug addicts.

Mr Letwin used a speech to the Policy Exchange think-tank to insist that the Conservatives would focus their help on, "those who are most in need".

He said: "We want today's modern, compassionate Conservative Party to be the party that offers a way back in for the unemployed, the homeless, the disabled, the refugee, the orphan, the drug addict, for those who have been kept out and for those who have been shut out, for those who have lost out and for those who have dropped out, for all the victims of state failure."

Mr Letwin added: "In the recent past, despite various efforts on our part to rectify the perception, too many people have imagined that we were somehow a party focusing solely or mainly on a quite different set of people, those who can look after themselves or the rich.

"Of course we wish there to be in Britain opportunities for all people of every kind. But the focus of modern compassionate conservatism is not on those who can look after themselves. It is on those who are most in need."

Labour attacked Mr Letwin, saying it would take more than "warm words" to dispel memories of their record on unemployment. But Mr Cameron reinforced that party message with a visit to the Big Issue homelessness charity.

Mr Cameron said: "The scale of the money raised through the Big Issue and the amount of people directed away from crime, and helped to get back on track, is very impressive.

"It is a genuine social enterprise and a way of tackling a deep social problem."

Mr Cameron also insisted that he was changing his party by reforming the way it selected candidates. He said he would use "tough" measures to make his party more representative.

He said: "I think I am doing some very important things in terms of reforming my own party. One of the most important things is to make sure we have a better balance of men and women candidates.

"I have suspended every selection in every constituency. I have asked everyone on the candidates' list to reapply. That is tough, it is difficult, it is not popular with a lot of people but I happen to think it is right."