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DAVID CAMERON fired up the Tory leadership contest today with a dramatic condemnation of the "coarsening and vulgarising" of Britain.

He criticised the exposure of young people to sexual imagery in a speech that put the family and marriage at the heart of his campaign while challenging Conservatives to take a firmer stand against companies that put profits before the common good.

Pitching himself as the "stop David Davis" candidate, he effectively launched his bid for the party crown with an uncompromising manifesto for Tory modernisation.

He said: "Real modernisation means having the confidence and the courage to say that there's more to life than money. If the pursuit of material wealth and personal advancement ends in damaged and broken families, then that's a price that's not worth paying." Using arguments that could almost have been delivered by Tony Blair, he set out an alternative vision to favourite David Davis that mapped out a Tory future squarely on the centre ground occupied by New With more MPs now predicting a two-horse race, two Conservative grandees used articles in the Evening Standard to declare support for the rivals.

Former treasurer and carpet magnate Lord Harris came out for Mr Cameron, saying: "When I look at David Cameron, I see a winner." Dixons boss Lord Kalms, another ex-treasurer, declared for Mr Davis, saying: "David Davis is the only man ... to take our party and our country forward."

Meanwhile, a senior supporter of Kenneth Clarke said he believes the former Chancellor will pull out of the contest in August.

Mr Cameron's speech, which effectively launched his campaign, was in deliberate contrast to Mr Davis's remark that he does not believe in the "centre ground".

In a coded swipe at the shadow home secretary, he said Tories who argued for "clear blue water" Labour.

between them and Labour were "crazy" because it was like a supermarket offering "bad food at high prices" just to be different from Tesco.

"I think that's crazy," he said. "I came into politics to do the right thing and make a difference. I didn't come into politics to engage in some positioning exercise."

Reaching out to traditionalists, he called for tax breaks for married couples and a campaign to defend the family. "We should use the law, the tax and benefits system and other mechanisms to encourage families to get together and stay together," he said.

Attacking the prevalence of sexual imagery and junk food ads, he went on: "It means recognising that there's been an unmistakable coarsening and vulgarising of national life in recent years, and modern politics should not allow this trend to go unchallenged.

"What's the impact of highly sexualised music videos, magazines and TV programmes on issues like sexual health and teenage pregnancy?

"What's the impact of food marketing on children's behaviour?

"We all have a part to play in addressing these issues, not least private companies, since many of these cultural changes are driven by business."

He backed Labour's city academy schools and hinted he could support more road tolls and the expansion of higher education, funded by tuition fees. The shadow education secretary repeatedly used the phrase "we're all in this together" and said Tories "do think there's such a thing as society".

His speech to the modernising think tank Policy Exchange was his most broad-ranging explanation yet of his political credo, which some critics have said was too ill-defined.

Why it has to be Cameron

by Lord Harris Carpet magnate and former Tory treasurer I'M a businessman, not a politician, but any businessman knows that to build a successful enterprise you need the right conditions: low taxes, not too many unnecessary regulations and an educated and skilled workforce.

These are some of the reasons I support the Conservative party. …


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