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Tim Yeo's warning to Tories

PUBLISHED: 23:38 27 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:15 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK'S most senior Tory has warned his party that it risks being overtaken by the Liberal Democrats.

South Suffolk MP and shadow trade and industry secretary Tim Yeo warned that 2003 would be a "make or break" year for the party's fortunes.

SUFFOLK'S most senior Tory has warned his party that it risks being overtaken by the Liberal Democrats.

South Suffolk MP and shadow trade and industry secretary Tim Yeo warned that 2003 would be a "make or break" year for the party's fortunes.

He echoed the calls by his party leader Iain Duncan Smith to "unite or die" as the party's poll rating continues to slide.

"People rightly think that this is the make or break year for our party,' he said.

"2003 provides the best chance for us for many years, with the Government facing difficulties on so many fronts, from the economy to the state of the public services.

"The health of the system demands a disciplined credible opposition. We have a duty to provide that.

"But if we do not take the chance this year, people will rightly look elsewhere.'

His comments came after fellow shadow cabinet members spoke out to play down talk of a split over tax cuts between Mr Duncan Smith and shadow chancellor Michael Howard.

Party chairman Theresa May said there was no contradiction between the leader's pledge to lead a government of "lower taxes' and Mr Howard's refusal to guarantee tax cuts in his first Budget.

Neither the Tories nor Gordon Brown could say what the state of the economy or the state of the Government finances will be at that time, she explained.

But Conservative former cabinet minister Chris Patten said the party was in "a hell of a mess'.

He said it was "bad for the country not to have a more serious opposition' and warned the party had to work hard to "claw back the middle ground'.

"The last opinion poll I saw showed that despite the difficulties that the Government has, the Conservative party was four points below where it was at the time of the last general election.

"So it's in pretty deep trouble, and has to work very hard to get out,' he said.

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