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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 22:23 GMT 23:23 UK
Tories set to decide leader
Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke
Party members will now choose between the two winners
The shock final round of the Conservative leadership ballot leaves party members preparing to choose between Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith, following the elimination of Michael Portillo.

BBC News Online speaks to a selection of Conservative constituency chairmen.

Pamela Coombes, constituency chairwoman, New Forest West.

I'm heartily shocked by the result. I quite honestly didn't think Clarke was in the frame at all - I thought the man to win would be Portillo.

Clarke is too old, he backs Europe and he said on Panorama that there was no need for a referendum. But how can he say that when he is a known Europhile?

The whole thing is heading for sheer disaster. If Clarke does get in, I expect the points will go up to begin with, but when people realise what they've got, there will be a slump.

The whole thing is heading for sheer disaster

I'm not looking forward to the next few days in the office, because people will come in and I know they will be angry. People in the party have already said to me that if we did accept Clarke they would resign.

Iain Duncan Smith seems to be very popular on this side of the country as far as MPs are concerned.

I voted for Duncan Smith, but not just because my MP did - I made up my own mind, as did the majority of people, and I think he's the right man for the job.

I expected that Portillo would choose to resign from front-line politics. It took him a long time to decide to come into the party again, and once he had decided everyone knew he would go for the leadership. Now that he's lost the leadership what else is there for him?

If Clarke loses this I think he'll go as well - and I don't think the party will suffer for it.

Bill Soane, constituency chairman, Wokingham Conservative Association

The Conservative Party needs to change. This is, I believe, the view of the majority of party activists and also the view of the electorate.

A new party leader will need to have the whole parliamentary party behind him to achieve this.

The result of today's ballot leaves us with two candidates with differing views on what will be the best for the future of this country. For this reason I will support Iain Duncan Smith in the final ballot for leader.

Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo's campaign had come under mounting pressure
The country needs and deserves a main stream party that will oppose abolition of the pound and further integration with Europe.

Mr Clarke has said he will listen to and respect the views of Euro sceptic MPs. I could not respect a leader who appears to change his views on an important issue such as this if this is not what he truly believes.

Of course there are many other important issues that need to be addressed; education, health and law and order. A united party will lead to policies being presented that will heal the ills of our public services.

But remember, at the moment we have the right to make those decisions in our own Parliament, lets be sure we continue to have a party that will protect our democracy.

Shireen Ritchie, constituency chairwoman, Kensington & Chelsea

Members of the Conservative Party now face the final choice between two good candidates in the leadership election. But sadly this choice does not include Michael Portillo.

This is the candidate who was most feared by the government. We seem to have shot ourselves, rather than our opponents, in the foot.

Campaigning in both the by-election and lately the General Election, I have had the chance to see Michael Portillo's modern and persuasive style.

Now we find ourselves in the last chance saloon, but alas without our most effective 'gunslinger'

He engages the public who are jaded by the usual political sound-bites and would have helped to bring in the support of the voters under the ages of 35.

Since the start of his campaign Michael Portillo has set the agenda for other leadership contesters; can either Ken Clarke or Iain Duncan Smith provide the radical changes that I feel are the party must make in order to gain the confidence of voters? I only hope that they can and do.

They talk about the need for more women as Conservative MPs - but are they ready to take the difficult decisions that will have to made in order for this to become a reality?

If the government changes the law, thus allowing all women short-lists, what will be their position on this question?

To my mind there is only one piece of good news today - Michael Portillo has said that he intends to stay on as MP for Kensington & Chelsea. At least we will have the benefit of his intellect and many skills as our representative.

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See also:

17 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Picture gallery: Tory leadership
17 Jul 01 | Talking Point
Who should lead the Tories?
16 Jul 01 | Business
Business backing for Portillo
15 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo camp hit by Platell video
14 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo 'expects to finish second'
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tory race on knife edge
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
And then there were three
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo under fire as Tory vote opens
 | UK Politics
Portillo's dark days
16 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tortuous Tory campaign goes to wire
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