BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Politics  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 13 September, 2002, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Tory chief defends his first year
Crime graphic
Crime is on Iain Duncan Smith's new hit list
Iain Duncan Smith has likened his first year as Conservative leader to the experience of Margaret Thatcher before she became prime minister.

To accusations, during a BBC Radio 4 Today programme interview, that no-one was noticing the Tories, Mr Duncan Smith insisted: "This was exactly the argument that was placed against Mrs Thatcher during 1974/1975.
Margaret Thatcher in 1981
Can Duncan Smith emulate Mrs Thatcher

"You will always get people who will say you are not doing enough, or you're doing too much."

Mrs Thatcher went on to win the 1979 General Election for the Conservatives, remaining as prime minister until 1990.

In a speech to mark his first anniversary, Mr Duncan Smith set out the "five giants" which blight life in the UK today and which challenge the Conservative Party.

'Decent and hard-working'

Mr Duncan Smith stressed that failing schools, crime, sub-standard healthcare, child poverty and insecurity in old age hit the most vulnerable people worst.

His comments are a deliberate echo of the "five giants" set out by the social reformer William Beveridge, whose 1942 report laid the foundation for the welfare state.

Tories' five giants
Failing schools
Below-par healthcare
Child poverty
Insecurity in old age

Labour Chairman Charles Clarke dubbed Tory attempts to seem more caring as "conjurer's trick" and accused the party of evading real debate.

Mr Duncan Smith made the speech in an east London hall used by Beveridge, who named squalor, want, disease, ignorance and idleness as the five challenges of his time.

Chances of success?

However, former Tory press chief Amanda Platell told Today she could not see "any chance" of the party winning the next election under Mr Duncan Smith.

"Iain Duncan Smith is a very decent and hard-working man," she said.

Being Tory leader was "one of the most difficult jobs in British politics", she said, "especially up against a man like Tony Blair who is one of the best leaders this country has ever seen".

"He has this incredible combination of normalness and greatness. Combine that with charisma and it is almost unbeatable.

"With the best will in the world - and being generous as you can - Iain doesn't possess those qualities."

'Vulnerable people'

Tory officials say they are not drawing a direct comparison with Beveridge.

But just as Beveridge outlined challenges in the 1940s, Mr Duncan Smith wants to set out the core problems facing British people in the 21st century.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith wants a more caring Tory image
He said: "Sadly for millions of vulnerable people throughout this country, these five giants have become more threatening over the last five years.

"The facts stubbornly show that you are most likely to be hurt by the five giants if you are poor, if you live in inner cities, if you are black, if you are very young or if you are very old.

"Many children are being left behind because of the breakdown of discipline in schools," he said.

But, he added: "Fear of crime and drugs blights the leafiest and most prosperous neighbourhoods.

"A sub-standard health service fails families in every part of the country."

'Crisis in care'

Most children no longer experience the material poverty seen in Beveridge's time, Mr Duncan Smith said.

But too many are "starved of love and security".

He pointed to the "crisis in care" for the elderly and the problems with providing decent pensions.

Labour Chairman Charles Clarke
Charles Clarke says Tories have relied on "scaremongering"
The Tories argue Labour has made such problems worse by trying to manage too much from the centre.

Mr Duncan Smith said the five giants can be toppled by "strengthening free society", not increasing the power of the state.

"We will support and strengthen the breadwinners, law-abiding citizens, parents, public services users and good neighbours of a free society," he said.

The Tories would focus accountability for public service delivery to local people, help families stay together, support a vigorous independent voluntary sector and deliver frontline neighbourhood policing to win the war against crime.

"People want honesty from politicians. They want leadership. They want change. I will deliver."

'Wasted year'

But Charles Clarke said: "How appropriate that Friday 13th should mark Iain Duncan Smith's first year of artifice, evasion and waste.

"His artifice has been the development and secret discussion of ever more extremist right-wing policies while trying to create the impression of a party which is in touch with the people."

Mr Clarke claimed Tory policy-makers were making "clandestine plans for more health charges, deep cuts in public spending, privatised pensions and removal of basic social protections".

The BBC's John Pienaar
"On show tonight - the new face of Conservatism"
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Iain Duncan Smith promises to serve the vulnerable"

BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder assesses the Tory leader's first yearPath to power?
The verdict on Iain Duncan Smith's first year
See also:

12 Sep 02 | Politics
11 Sep 02 | Politics
13 Sep 01 | Politics
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |