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banner Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Drop Thatcher, Duncan Smith urged
Iain Duncan Smith
New Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has been urged by a senior Tory to drop his party's link with Thatcherism.

Party vice-chairman Gary Streeter said this would demonstrate the party was becoming more inclusive, ahead of Mr Duncan Smith's Conservative conference debut as leader.

Baroness Thatcher has a very small part to play in the future of our party, although she was a giant in the century that we've just enjoyed

Gary Streeter
Last week Baroness Thatcher caused a storm of controversy when she said she "had not heard enough condemnation from Muslim priests" of the US terror attacks.

Like other past leaders, she is not expected at the shortened conference in Blackpool as Mr Duncan Smith attempts to make his mark.

That task has been made even more difficult by the 11 September attacks, since when he has rigidly backed current government policy in the fight against international terrorism.

But he has not shied away from constructive engagement with the issue, saying in an eve of conference interview that the international coalition focuses solely on Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network at their peril.

Iraq's 'dubious' record

"There are a number of other international terrorist groups who are hell-bent on doing similar things to Bin Laden and many of those are sponsored by Iraq and Iraq has a very dubious record," he told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost.

"The prime minister has said straight to me that they don't have any direct proof but they will certainly keep it under review and that's what I'm asking him to do."

Closer to home Mr Duncan Smith has been urged to follow Mr Blair's example in ditching Labour's Clause IV, by severing the Tory link with Thatcherism.

Mr Duncan Smith has already described her legacy as "valuable" while insisting it is the party's "past".

Thatcher's future

But Mr Streeter wants him to go further, telling GMTV although Baroness Thatcher was a "fantastic prime minister", she had only a "very small" part to play in the party's future.

"Society has changed enormously and I think if we are to attract support from a wider group of people, then we have to say, 'that was great then but that's yesterday, we leave that behind and we look forward'.

Bill Cash: Euro-rebel extraordinaire under John Major, now in the shadow cabinet
And, suggesting there could be benefits in a confrontation between the current leadership and its most formidable figure from the past, he went on: "It mustn't go on forever but if you pick a fight and win it with reactionary forces then you demonstrate to a wider group of people 'Hey, maybe they are changing after all'."

Mr Duncan Smith has already appointed advisers on race issues but has also been under pressure to discipline Conservative MPs who belong to right-wing groups that back the voluntary repatriation of immigrants.

The Tory leader will be hoping terrorism and the unstable internal state of the party do not completely overshadow his determination to tackle the government head-on over public services.

European tour

Mr Duncan Smith has ordered his shadow cabinet to pack their bags and scour Europe for ways to improve the National Health Service.

"In any reform, and I'm not going to commit to exactly what would happen, but we're going to look at countries like France, Germany, Holland and Scandinavia, which all have better healthcare and health systems than us and different ways of doing it," he told Breakfast with Frost.

The principle of the NHS being free at the point of delivery would be maintained, he pledged.

"But beyond that what we have to ask, and I think what the British people want us to ask, is why alone in some of these more advanced nations in Western Europe do we have such a very low quality of overall care?"

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"This is a clear attempt to break with the past"
See also:

07 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tory MPs resign from far-right club
06 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tories deny ignoring black vote
05 Oct 01 | Conservatives
Tories' crisis conference
13 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Rebel's rise to the top
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