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EDITIONS
Conservatives Monday, 8 October, 2001, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
The show goes on, vow Tories
Iain Duncan Smith flanked by party chairman David Davis in Blackpool
Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Davis say the show goes on
Conservative Party chiefs gathered in Blackpool have vowed to press on with their annual conference as near normally as possible given the strikes on Afghanistan and emergency recall of parliament.

Party chairman David Davis acknowledged that the strikes, launched on the eve of the three-day conference, meant it would be a lower-key event with a changed agenda.


You'll see much less of the knockabout that is normal at party conferences

David Davis
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith would, after making a short opening speech, head back to Westminster, but deputy leader and shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram would stay in Blackpool to debate defence and foreign affairs as scheduled.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the conference opening, Mr Davis said its mood would be "sombre".

"I think you'll see much less of the knockabout that is normal at party conferences," he said. "It will be much more focused on the raw issues and the central issue."

He stressed the Tories' "determination to carry on and make this [conference] as natural an occurrence as possible considering the circumstances".

Reduced coverage

Key members of Mr Duncan Smith's shadow cabinet will also be at Monday evening's emergency Commons recall, including shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin who had been due to speak in Blackpool.

But the party felt it was "incredibly important" they keep the conference going, despite the inevitably reduced media coverage, Mr Davis said.

As many MPs as possible are being urged to return on Tuesday and fringe events, despite the absence of many key speakers, would go ahead as closely to the published agenda as possible.

Terrorism and the current military action will dominate Monday's agenda as "an important contribution to national unity on the matter and support of our forces", Mr Davis said.

Monday's planned agenda
Conference opened with short speech by party leader Iain Duncan Smith
Speech by party chairman David Davis
Foreign affairs and defence debate opened by shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram
Local government debate opened by Theresa May
But the Conservatives also believe it an important symbol to debate other issues.

There will be a short debate on local government on Monday, with Tuesday set to be devoted to the economy and public services.

The focus is likely to switch back to the international situation again by Wednesday, when Mr Duncan Smith will deliver his keynote speech.

The Tory leader has already given his full backing to the use of UK troops, saying: "My message from the Conservative Party is that we should not waver, and the government can expect that we will not waver in our support of just action."

Michael Ancram, ahead of his opening Monday's foreign affairs and defence debate, said: "Clearly the tone of the conference will be different from a normal party conference.

"We understand the gravity of the situation, that will be reflected in the debates."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative party leader
gives his reaction to Sunday's military strikes
Michael Ancram, deputy party leader
"We will play our full part as the official opposition"
See also:

07 Oct 01 | South Asia
07 Oct 01 | UK
07 Oct 01 | Conservatives
05 Oct 01 | Conservatives
13 Sep 01 | UK Politics
07 Oct 01 | UK Politics
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