Tory contenders call for tax cuts to support marriage

The calls for a Tory government to intervene to drive young couples to the register office will go down well with activists. But it will cause despair among modernisers who warn that the party should not appear to lecture people on how to run their lives.

While other would-be Tory leaders were saying they want to bring back marriage, Kenneth Clarke issued an independent call for the Tories to be more "tolerant".

David Davis, the bookies' favourite to win the leadership, warns in a pamphlet published tomorrow: "If the family fails, society falls. Over the next four years we must devise and pursue policies that will reverse the decline of the family's status."

In the same pamphlet his rival David Cameron argues: "Modern families come in all shapes and sizes, and they all need support. But the evidence also shows that married couples have a better chance of staying together longer. So a modern Conservative Party should support marriage."

In an interview on Channel 4's Morgan and Platell last night, Liam Fox chided fellow Tories for failing to "see families for the building blocks they are in society for fear of being portrayed as being anti-single-parents or homophobic or whatever".

The main leadership contenders have set their stalls out in the booklet, which includes a series of frank essays by prominent Tories on why they lost another general election in May. One of the most damning is by Andrew Cooper, a former party official, who warned: "The Conservative Party's condition is not yet terminal, but the party has now been in a persistent vegetative state for more than a decade ... Many Tories are remarkably quick to judge the way that people choose now to live their lives. When Tories get together and talk about Britain, what often unfolds is one vast harrumph about what Britain has become."

As well as calling for a return to family values, Mr Davis sets out what he calls the "opportunity agenda", including US-style tax cuts, as the way to close the gap between haves and have-nots. Mr Clarke calls for "toleration towards the way people live their lives; vigilance in defence of civil liberties; and a broadly internationalist outlook".

'From the Ashes: The Future of the Conservative Party', edited by Sam Gyimah, is published by Politico's Publishing and the Bow Group, £9.99