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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Tories warned of 'mighty task ahead'
Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith appealed to Tory local councillors
Iain Duncan Smith has resumed his bid to win the Conservative leadership race with a speech conceding the party has a "mighty task ahead".

In the address to activists in Kent Mr Duncan Smith pledged to hand back more power to local communities if he returns the Tories to power.

There is a mighty task ahead. But all of us can be part of it

Iain Duncan Smith
He also said he wanted to identify a modern equivalent to council house sales, the popular strategy pursued under Tory former prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The speech marked the formal end of a two week summer holiday truce agreed with rival Ken Clarke and came alongside acrimonious exchanges between both sets of supporters.

Former party chairman Michael Ancram fired the first salvo by warning that Mr Clarke could split the party.

Heseltine attacks

Ex-deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine hit back by accusing Mr Duncan Smith of being divisive himself, saying he was one of the leading Eurosceptics who undermined John Major's government.

But Mr Duncan Smith concentrated his own efforts back on the campaign trail, tailoring his message to party members active in council politics.

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke starts campaigning again on Thursday
In his speech he called for the Conservative "fight-back" at local level to be transferred to Westminster through "new policies that will give our people greater security and freedom".

He pledged to block any attempt to abolish county councils and proposed helping more Conservatives with experience in local government to become MPs.

Mr Duncan Smith concluded: "We must craft a new and appealing agenda. And you, our Conservative councillors, will be our craftsmen.

"Through you, we will reach out to those who feel that we no longer speak to or for them.

"There is a mighty task ahead. But all of us can be part of it. And, with your help, it can begin today."

Whoever is elected you have this division in the Tory party

Lord Heseltine
Earlier Mr Ancram renewed the hostilities in dramatic style as he explained why he backed Mr Duncan Smith over Mr Clarke.

"I can't see how we can be lead by a man who essentially disagrees with one of the most cherished beliefs of the party - that is our belief in keeping the pound - without risking tearing the party apart," he told BBC News.

Believing the Tories could sideline the issue was "just ducking reality", he added.

But Clarke supporters lined up to reject the attack and back their man, who does not take to the campaign trail himself until Thursday.

Duncan Smith 'divisive'

Lord Heseltine told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "If one is talking about a united party those of us who were part of the last government remember very well the divisions created by the Eurosceptics, and Iain Duncan Smith was at the forefront of that divisive process."

As an experienced politician ahead in most opinion polls Mr Clarke was the man to take the Tories back into government, Lord Heseltine insisted.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said Mr Ancram's comments were unhelpful and she was "very surprised" at his view.

"Come on Michael Ancram, we can be as purist as we like on Europe but we can't do anything about it unless we're in government," she told BBC News.

Policy doubts

Asked about Mr Duncan Smith's keynote speech, she questioned why he had not come up with such radical policies in four years of opposition.

"If he's got them, great - let's hear them, let's test them," she added.

Both contenders are fulfilling a gruelling schedule of consitutency meetings before the ballot closes on 11 September.

They are also appearing separately at a series of hustings starting on Wednesday 22 August.

The only joint appearance will be a televised debate on BBC Two's Newsnight the same day.

The BBC's Norman Smith
"Michael Ancram's comments have jacked up the political rhetoric"
Former Tory chairman Michael Ancram
"What doesn't win votes is a divided party"
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Kenneth Clarke supporter
"There's a challenge for either candidate"

Recent stories

The final two


See also:

30 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Clarke: Euro poll not party political
29 Jul 01 | UK Politics
No euro purge says Duncan Smith
26 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith admits underdog status
19 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Clarke and Duncan Smith battle on
17 Jul 01 | Talking Point
Who should lead the Tories?
01 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke wins over Portillo backers
02 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Candidates back Duncan Smith
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