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Sunday, 2 September, 2001, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Funding threat over Clarke victory
If Ken Clarke wins the Tory leadership race, one of Scotland's richest men has threatened to stop funding the party's election campaigns.

Irvine Laidlaw, a Banffshire-born millionaire, said he would find it difficult to maintain his support because of Mr Clarke's pro-euro views.

The Monaco-based businessman told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper that if Mr Clarke won he would only channel cash into the Tories in Scotland.

Mr Laidlaw, whose personal fortune is estimated to be worth 750m, also said he was backing Mr Clarke's leadership rival Iain Duncan Smith.

Iain Duncan Smith
IDS pledged not to shift further to the right

He told the paper: "I would have more difficulty under Ken and would probably be more inclined to focus my attentions on Scotland.

"There is no reason why I wouldn't continue to support Tories in Scotland.

"The Scottish Parliament elections in 2003 will be an expensive business."

He said he would make a final decision on whether to fund a Clarke-led UK party once the former chancellor had clarified whether he intended to campaign for the UK to join the European single currency.

Mr Laidlaw initially backed Michael Portillo in the leadership campaign, claiming Mr Duncan Smith was too right-wing.

But after meeting Mr Duncan Smith he described him as someone with "a lot of common sense" and less right-wing than he is portrayed.

Speaking at the party's one-day Scottish conference in Perth on Saturday, Mr Laidlaw said his favoured candidate had agreed not to shift further to the right.

He said: "I spoke to him today and I don't find him right-wing at all.

"He is a common-sense pragmatic man who understands that the party cannot be pushed to the right and win the election."

Conservative party members have until 11 September to vote for a new leader with a result expected the following day.

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See also:

01 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scots quiz Tory hopefuls
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
Duncan Smith on campaign march
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
European question rattles Clarke
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
Scots Tory conference - agenda
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