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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 14:12 GMT
'His best speech so far'
Iain Duncan Smith with his wife Betsy at the conference
The speech was "impressive and thoughtful"
Delegates at the Tory party spring conference in Harrogate have welcomed Iain Duncan Smith's speech exhorting his party to transform itself.

Sheila Gunn, who was an aide to former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, told BBC News it was a "thoughtful" speech.

Jonathan Evans, leader of the Conservative MEPs, said it was "impressive" and possibly the best Mr Duncan Smith had ever made.

It went down very well with me, because that was very much the message I wanted to hear

Sheila Gunn

Ms Gunn said: "It was very different, not just the subject of the speech - talking about this ghastly housing estate in Glasgow - but the tone of the whole speech.

"So often Conservative leaders have wanted to play to the audience they've got in front of them.

"It wasn't that sort of speech, it was a very thoughtful speech.

"It went down very well with me, because that was very much the message I wanted to hear, particularly concentrating on policies on helping the vulnerable."

She added that she thought Mr Major would have liked it.

"I think he might have been surprised about it, and I think he would have liked it as well," she said.

'Learning lessons'

Mr Evans said: "I've known Iain for many many years - it's probably the best speech I've heard him make.

"And that was reflected in speaking to a number of people who heard the speech and spoke to me afterwards.

We are a more thoughtful party... because we're learning the lessons of opposition

Jonathan Evans
"In a sense it's a continuum of all of the speeches that we've heard during the course of this conference.

"We are, I think, a more thoughtful party, a more inclusive party, a tolerant party - because we're in opposition and we're learning the lessons of opposition.

"Those are that we have to put together a framework of policies that are relevant to people and produce solutions.

"That's a real contrast to this government, which does seem to be obsessed with spin, does seem to be obsessed with advertising, as Iain put it."

He said Mr Duncan Smith was right to warn that the party must take time to consider its policies and get them right.

"I don't think we want to gallop ahead too quickly here.

"But one of the great advantages of opposition is, of course, that you can open a new page and start to listen to the sort of solutions that people want to put forward, and an inclusive party should do that."

The BBC's Vicky Young
"The concervative party is closing the gap on Labour"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"This is the Conservative Party going back to its roots"
Community worker Bob Holman
"Their policies need to tackle poverty"
See also:

24 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Tories pledge to 'transform'
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