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EDITIONS
Friday, 11 October, 2002, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Newslog
It's Newslog, Nick Robinson's unique diary from the heart of the news. It's a two-way process though, so add your comments too.

Friday 11 October

Your mail
posted by Nick | 1325BST | Add comment
As promised, it's time again to open the Newslog Party Conference Inbox.

From Stephen Wheale, UK
Teresa May is terrifying - why isn't she leading the party?

Certainly, one of the first things I thought of during Teresa May's speech was that I must ring the bookies and check the odds on her being the next leader. She's certainly worth a flutter on longish odds. What strikes me about her was that she had a crucial quality for a leading politician, which is that she has a good capacity to learn.

In other words, it's not that she's startling now, but she does seem to be getting better steadily. If the party decides it needs a dash of glamour after "the quiet man", it's hard to think of very many people it could turn to. And amusingly I learned at a late night's drinks party that the top prize is something she's had her eye on since being a student.

From Richard Mollet, London
Teresa May being chairman of the Conservative Party is hardly an example of meritocracy either. It reeks of tokenism - IDS thinking that if he puts a woman in the post people will think that the Tories are somehow suddenly inclusive.

You're being a bit harsh, I think. Teresa May's lived up to the hopes of those who persuaded IDS to appoint her and who hoped for a showdown with the traditionalists in their party. And she delivered it for them, even though IDS was never going to touch their most dramatic idea - using the leader's speech for a direct confrontation with the last Chingford skinhead, Norman Tebbit.

From Graham, Chichester
Given that the faxyourmp.com survey shows that MPs are generally pretty hopeless at answering questions from their constituents, I wondered what the results would be of a similar survey for dodging questions from journalists?

Too gruesome to publish I suspect, though it's good to see that there's a rival for the Gordon Brown school (I ask the chancellor what his name is, and he delivers his pre-written soundbite about there being no return to boom and bust) in the form of Oliver Letwin.

He consistently disarms interviewers by answering their questions with a smile and not a little style. On Wednesday, for example, I asked him whether he was prepared to go into an election for the first time in a generation with no promise of tax cuts. That's something which a number of Tory figures believe will be necessary to convince the public that the Tories are serious about public service improvement. To my surprise, he answered yes.

From Ian W, UK
Theresa May's shoes certainly weren't conservative.

Well that much is true. Thanks for your e-mails - it's back to Westminster and politics as usual next week. See you then.

-----------------------------

Thursday 10 October

Walk on the mild side
posted by Nick | 1655BST | Add comment

'Vote for the quiet man!' It makes an unlikely rallying cry, but the Tories hope that there will come a time when voters tire of Tony Blair's smile and charisma and then that they will be reassured by the presence of a quiet, unassuming but solid character.

Now before you snigger at that prospect it's worth remembering that that was part of John Major's winning formula when in 1992 he polled a record 14 million votes. On the other hand, after today's proof, no-one will be booking Duncan Smith for weddings and barmitzvahs - except for the passage about himself, he managed to destroy almost every one of his speech writer's best lines.

I don't imagine he'll enjoy tomorrow morning's newspaper sketches. I learned this afternoon that in one tabloid newsroom they began to heckle the television. When he said: "I know what it's like to lose a job," they shouted : "And you're going to lose the one you've got now, mate."

-------------------------

Monday 7 October

You are the weakest link, goodbye
posted by Nick | 1445BST | Add comment
The Tories' answer to Anne Robinson - the party chairman Theresa May - is, as I write, currently telling the entire Tory Party they are the weakest link.

Ms May speaking as I write...
In an extraordinarily hard-hitting speech, she's saying that their failure to select enough women and black candidates is a "travesty, not a meritocracy" and something "that will never be allowed to happen again".

She doesn't spell it out, but it's clear she's considering positive discrimination.


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