CONSERVATIVES: IN the 1997 General Election, the Conservative Party lost 171 MPs. In the eight years since that landslide defeat, it has won back less than 40.

To win the next election the party must change. The sort of change needed to form the next Government will take a leader who can appeal beyond the current Conservative core vote - a person with the ability to engage and inspire new support.

We believe that person is David Cameron - the leadership candidate who has the talent, charisma and vision to deliver a modern, compassionate and consistent Conservatism. In short, he understands how we need to change to win - to make us the party of government once again.

David Cameron offers Conservatives a new sense of purpose and direction to the election-winning centre ground of British politics through a narrative which talks about quality of life and shared responsibility.

We believe this to be an optimistic and outward looking message which will attract widespread support from people with ambition and aspiration in all sections of society.

Policies built on values and a message based on optimism. With the support of 100 MPs, party members now have the chance to choose a winner. Let's take it and elect David Cameron. - Ben Howlett, Durham University Conservative Association Campaigns Manager, Michael Fishwick, 2005 Election Agent, City of Durham (writing in a personal capacity).


YOUR report (Echo, Nov 11) on bus service cuts proposed in County Durham was a fair representation of the facts.

Escalating fuel costs, increases in drivers' wages and declining patronage on some routes have made the county council's £3.5m annual investment to support services insufficient in the face of losses oft £60,000 per month.

What your report did not point out, however, is that Durham County Council continues to be one of the most generous local authorities in the country in supporting its bus services. Without this support many services would have declined long ago as has happened in many other parts of the country.

There may be some misunderstanding about the service cuts. Many of these services run without subsidy throughout the day and will continue to do so. It is only the evening and Sunday journeys on these services that are being changed, where fewer passengers mean that continued support has became unsustainable.

The great majority of the proposed cuts are to lightly used evening and Sunday services with some secondary daytime routes being reduced.

In many cases, other nearby routes have been modified to continue the service and where this is not possible, taxi bus services or a community bus are often available.

While any cut to a service is regrettable, it needs to be noted that the proposals will affect about one per cent of the total passenger journeys.

There is, however, a greater danger in future. As cost continues to escalate and unless people start using their local bus services again, it will be indeed a case of use it or lose it. - Councillor Robert Pendlebury, Durham County Council.


YES, Richard Dodd, North of England director of the Countryside Alliance, (HAS, Nov 9) it does look, smell and sound like illegal hunting until you convince us otherwise.

Why are hounds still being bred? Why did cubbing occur in August? Why aren't you using one of the 300 chemical-based alternatives to lay a drag?

Why did the South Durham Hunt take out a bird of prey which it was never intended to fly because it was too windy?

Your letter emanates contempt for the law. Instead of respecting it you are putting up two fingers. I, along with Britain's majority, care about wildlife and resent being called extremists.

Illegal hunting wastes police time. Mr Dodd's letter makes people even more determined to catch countryside criminals.

I am a rural dweller who opposes the cruelty inherent in hunting. Like thousands of others, when the ban came in I decided to support drag hunting and followed my local hunt. I was in Sedgefield on November 5.

Until hunts obey the law, my support is withdrawn. What is the problem? If they are serious about drag hunting (and I don't think for a second they are), who is going be the first in the North-East to set up a drag hunt? It is a very profitable business. - Name supplied, South West Durham.

I TREATED the article about the South Durham Hunt (Echo, Nov 7) using wolf urine with scepticism.

Where did they get wolf urine from? It was a windy day, so any scent would soon disperse.

What hunts must realise is the fact that hunting wild mammals with hounds is illegal.

The current leadership of the Countryside Alliance is going to have to choose between supporting or condemning the actions of its extremist supporters.

Pious words about unjust laws are just an equivocation and will be interpreted by the media and the public as law breaking.

No-one in this country is above law breaking and examples will be made, of this I have no doubt.

The fact that these criminals have so many supporters is also a scandal. - Name supplied, Bishop Auckland.

IT seems that this year more foxes have been killed than in previous years. Most of those killed were fit and young - in a previous year, they could out-run the hounds. Hounds generally killed those who were old and unfit; the young often managed to escape and live to breed.

Will foxes in future become extinct as did wolves? After all it was the fox hunters who ensured that foxes survived because if they became extinct the hunts would also. - E Reynolds, Wheatley Hill.

ALL blood sports are best categorised as pure bullying because people have the advantage over smaller and less able creatures. Man is given an advantage in order to look after them. There are no valid excuses for any bloodsports. - A Johnson, Darlington.


THIS is always a sad time of year when we remember all the lives lost by soldiers and civilians in past and present wars trying to gain what we have and what they thought was worth dying for: freedom.

If only they knew how much some are pushing to give this freedom up.

Anything that a small group of people do not like must end. Hunting, smoking. And next angling, game shooting, Morris dancing (blackened faces) and dangerous sports?

Most people are not bothered by people smoking so long as they have a choice of areas/rooms.

Some members of the population do not go out after dark because they have more serious fears than smoke: burglary, muggings, terrorists.

People are living longer, even those who lived through hard times and also smoked. To suggest that everyone who smokes or has been a passive smoker is going to have lung cancer is wrong. That is saying that if no one ever smoked, there would be no such cancer.

So let things stay as they are. Freedom of choice: eat, drink, smoke, enjoy your sport, tolerate each other (even if it's from a distance).

We, as a democracy, pride ourselves on safeguarding minorities whether we agree with them or not. Remember, freedom is more than a word. It is eternal vigilance. - D Price, Darlington.