Tory leader rallies Essex party faithful

TORY leader Michael Howard last night acknowledged that his party has a tremendous amount of work to do before it could believe it could win the next general election.

TORY leader Michael Howard last nightacknowledged that his party has a tremendous amount of work to do before it could believe it could win the next general election.

Mr Howard, who todaycelebrates his first 100 days in office since taking over from Iain Duncan Smith, said East Anglia was vital to his party's goal of defeating Tony Blair at the next general election.

The Tory leader, was guest speaker at the annual dinner of Maldon and Chelmsford East Conservatives, at Five Lakes Golf and Country Club at Tolleshunt Knights.

He told the East Anglian Daily Times, success at the next general election would be on the back of gains in Braintree, Harwich, Colchester, Great Yarmouth and Peterborough.

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He said of his first 100 days: "So far, so good but its not very far and there's a long way to go."

In 55 local council by-election since he became leader, there has been an average swing from Labour to the Conservatives of 4.2 per cent.

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"I know that, that's not enough to win a general election," he admitted.

"But it's a good platform on which to build and I am determined that we must continue to exposing the weaknesses of this failing Labour government.

"I think we can win the election. It is for the British people to decide and I don't presume on their judgement."

Mr Howard said that the conservatives had to present themselves as "an alternative to which the country can turn to with confidence then it is up to the electorate to decide."

He promised that the conservatives would fight on a platform of taking power from the centre back to the people.

"I am totally opposed to any form of regional government and I am also horrified at this government's plans to build tens of thousands of houses across the south and east of England.

"Tony Blair's administration does not understand joined up government.

" If it did, it would be proposing to build 60,000 homes on the M11 corridor between Harlow and Cambridge which will be under the flight path of the planned second runway at Stansted."

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