Yeo's call to arms

ONE of East Anglia's senior Conservative MPs, widely tipped as the next party chairman, has called on the Tories to home in on key marginal seats with "laser-like" intensity.

By Graham Dines

ONE of East Anglia's senior Conservative MPs, widely tipped as the next party chairman, has called on the Tories to home in on key marginal seats with "laser-like" intensity.

Tim Yeo, Shadow Trade and industry Secretary and MP for South Suffolk, said yesterday: "We have reached the stage where happily the background chatter about Iain Duncan Smith's leadership has died down. Now we must attack Labour and organise our resources in the key marginal seats."

Conservative Central Office should focus resources with "laser-like intensity" on target seats. "In the end that's where votes are needed," said Mr Yeo.


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"We have to be disciplined in saying that's where the resources will be concentrated, where members of the shadow cabinet will spend their time, where professional staff will spend their time, where money is directed."

At this stage of the last parliament, the Tories had publicly announced a marginal seats offensive, twinning Tory MPs with what they hoped were winnable seats at the last election.

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Mr Yeo spent much of his own time in the last parliament speaking in and helping activists in a clutch of seats, mainly rural, in his capacity as Shadow Minister of Agriculture.

Mr Yeo's remarks put further pressure on current party chairman Theresa May, who has been attacked by senior party figures for failing to galvanise Central Office into a winning team.

Mr Yeo said this year's local election results, combined with an upsurge in Tory fortunes in the opinion polls, had raised Tory sights above the 100 General Election gains generally regarded as a "great result."

"Our expectations have been greatly raised," he said. "The post-Blair era is coming over the horizon."

To regain their traditional grip on East Anglia, the Tories need to win back a number of marginal seats taken by Labour and Liberal Democrats in 1997 and 2001.

The most marginal is Labour-held Braintree, where Alan Hurst has a majority of just 358. Others include Norfolk North (Lib Dem, majority 483), Harwich (Labour, 2,596), Peterborough (Labour, 2,854), Ipswich (Labour, by-election majority 4,087), Great Yarmouth (4,564), and Colchester (Lib Dem, 5,553).

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