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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
Right wins battle for Tory hearts
New Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith won a convincing victory
Nick Assinder

It had always been billed as a battle for the heart and soul of the Tory party.

And Iain Duncan Smith's victory in the contest to replace William Hague has made it crystal clear what sort of party the grassroots Tories want.

The size of Mr Duncan Smith's victory - 61% compared to 39% for Kenneth Clarke - leaves no room for doubt about that. They want a right wing, deeply Eurosceptic party.

The man who led the anti-Maastricht rebellions against his own government under John Major is now in control of that party, and the pro-Europeans have been delivered a comprehensive thumbs down.

That was evident in the reaction of his competitor and leading pro-European Mr Clarke, who had clearly had the wind knocked out of his sails by the result.

Derisory speech

In a brief, almost derisory speech after the result was announced in Tory HQ, Mr Clarke said the new leader now had to make the Tories electable - and it was patent he did not believe that was possible.

Mr Clarke looked like a defeated, even bitter, man and the question on everybody's lips now is whether he will accept defeat quietly or attempt to regroup on the backbenches and launch a fight back on behalf of the euro-enthusiasts.

The size of Mr Duncan Smith's victory suggests, however, that any such destabilising move will play very badly with the party.

Former Tory leader William Hague
Hague battled to make Tories electable
For his part, Mr Duncan Smith thanked Mr Clarke for his "immensely kind and supportive comments" - he clearly had not been listening.

The fallout from the terrorist attack in the US inevitably overshadowed the end of this contest and all plans to hold a glitzy media event were swiftly abandoned.

Gloomy corridor

It was replaced instead by a brief statement of the result and two short speeches by the contenders.

Yet this was the first time in Tory history that they had the opportunity to put on a big stunt for the result of a leadership contest.

In the past the announcement has been made in a gloomy corridor in the House of Commons and the victor has simply gone on to thank party workers before holding a private celebration.

Iain Duncan Smith
It could have been very different this time had it not been for the US tragedy.

And it will be some time before politics in Britain returns to normal.

Meanwhile Mr Duncan Smith will have to contemplate the massive task now ahead of him.

He immediately started the task of casting his new shadow cabinet.

Despite his convincing victory he will want to offer an olive branch to the Clarke supporters in the parliamentary party.

And he will want to put the bitterness and recriminations of the leadership contest behind him.

Whether or not he will be able to do that and rebuild the shattered Conservative party remains the big question.

Political wilderness

He is virtually unknown outside the parliamentary Tory party and is not viewed as the most charismatic of figures.

What his detractors fear is that, by electing a leading Eurosceptic, the Tories have consigned themselves to the political wilderness for years to come.

His first test will come in the Commons debate on Friday over the New York atrocities.

He has already offered his support for President Bush, who is a natural political ally, and will be in his element leading the reaction for the Tories.


Winner and loser



See also:

09 Sep 01 | UK Politics
13 Sep 01 | UK Politics
13 Sep 01 | UK Politics
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