Top Tory dismissed election 'good news'

CONSERVATIVES are deluded if they think the party had a good general election, top Tory Tim Yeo said today.Mr Yeo, who stood down from the shadow cabinet earlier this week, warned that his party was still far from being a credible alternative government.

CONSERVATIVES are deluded if they think the party had a good general election, top Tory Tim Yeo said today.

Mr Yeo, who stood down from the shadow cabinet earlier this week, warned that his party was still far from being a credible alternative government.

He told The Evening Star: "I know we won a few more MPs and our vote did go up a bit in one or two places.

"But overall we failed to push up our vote and we were still very badly beaten.

"If you look at the figures, we still ended up with fewer MPs than the Labour Party got even in its darkest hours like 1983.

"I know some people think we did well to win more seats - but wasn't a good election and anyone who thinks it was is frankly deluded."

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He was disappointed by the election because he felt his party should have done much better.

"We failed to attract new voters in spite of favourable circumstances - we were fighting an unpopular Labour prime minister who is seen as a lame duck.

"Voters didn't like him because of Iraq and the trust issue - but they still didn't vote Conservative and there needs to be a hard look at why that was."

Mr Yeo warned that his party might not be in such a good position next time - even if it managed to increase its own support.

He said: "Labour was badly damaged this time by Iraq, but the people who deserted it over Iraq didn't vote Conservative, they supported the Liberal Democrats or other parties.

"At the next general election there won't be the Iraq factor - and we won't be fighting Tony Blair.

"It is quite conceivable that the Labour vote will go up next time and we will have missed this opportunity.

"Of course Labour could be blown off-course by other factors such as problems with the economy," he added.

Mr Yeo said his party had to look at more ways of attracting new, young voters.

In the general election the Conservatives came third among voters aged under 55, behind the Liberal Democrats.

He said: "We've now had two election campaigns aimed firmly at our core voters - promoting policies clearly aimed at those people who would vote for us anyway.

"We haven't looked beyond these core voters - and we have to build a wider appeal if we are to win again.

"I want to take part in the debate about how to widen our appeal - that is why I decided to stand down from the shadow cabinet."

Mr Yeo refused to rule himself out of the race to succeed Michael Howard, but felt it was too early to discuss the leadership race.

"What we need before the leadership election is a debate on the future of the party - and I want to take a full part in that debate from the back benches," he said.

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