Tory supporters urge tougher right-wing line

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Indy Politics
John Major was urged yesterday by Conservative grass roots supporters to defend the nation's flag, the Royal Family, and the House of Lords, in Our Nation's Future, a strongly right-wing manifesto for the general election to defeat Tony Blair's New Labour.

The biggest consultation exercise ever carried out by the Tory Party showed its supporters across the country want Mr Major to campaign on a platform mixing patriotism with a strong dose of Euro-scepticism. Labour accused the Tories of a "lurch to the right".

The soundings of the Conservative supporters in the country, published by Tory leaders yesterday, showed that many in the party are hankering for a return to the main themes of Thatcherism to defeat Labour's plans for devolution, constitutional reform and joining the European social chapter.

Tory supporters said the UK did not fly the flag enough. Some called for the law to be changed to allow the Union Flag to be flown from buildings without consent; for the national flag to be flown at the Conservative Party conference; and for the national anthem to be played more frequently.

The results, which will be fed into the party manifesto for the general election, will increase the pressure on the party leadership for a strong right-wing appeal to the electorate. That could open the party to claims of fighting the next election on jingoism, and it may unsettle the "One Nation" Tories, who have been touted by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to defect.

The Euro-sceptic tone in Our Nation's Future included resistance to any surrender of British sovereignty and calls to reject any moves toward a "United States of Europe".

The majority were "sceptical" about a single currency and were reluctant to see Britain join up, but the party favoured continued British membership of the European Union, said Brian Mawhinney, the chairman of the Conservative Party.

They were highly critical of the European Court of Justice and its overruling of decisions by British courts.

The Chancellor was urged to make deeper cuts in public expenditure down to 30 per cent of GDP, and in taxation. Kenneth Clarke's own Rushcliffe constituency said there should be a substantial increase in the tax threshold to take more of the low-paid out of tax - but more right-wing supporters wanted direct tax cuts. The welfare state was also too large, and needed targeting of benefits, through means testing, including child benefit.

Dr Mawhinney insisted that the document was not a blueprint for the Conservative manifesto for the general election. He claimed it showed the party membership in tune with the Parliamentary party and stressed that he had not been surprised by any of the results.