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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 15:38 GMT
Duncan Smith's challenge: Can the Tories unite?
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has faced one of the toughest tests of his political career in the House of Commons.

Under pressure after his "unite or die" appeal to the party, Mr Duncan Smith attacked Tony Blair during the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Duncan Smith, who rose to cheers from the Tory benches, challenged the prime minister over whether the government is planning top up fees for university students.

He then launched a bitter attack on the government for what he said were "grubby deals" with Spain over the future of Gibraltar.

MPs on all sides will have been watching Mr Duncan Smith's performance closely after his high-risk rallying call to his MPs following a rebellion over gay adoption.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lady Thatcher entered the row over the future of the Conservatives, saying the party will never die.

Do you feel that Iain Duncan Smith's statement will help unite his party? Will they back him? Will he retain his party's support in the run up to the next election? Tell us what you think.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The Conservative Party under Iain Duncan Smith has set out a clear strategy, a new policy agenda based around the bottom-up reform of public services. It is modernising its approach based on real political inclusiveness, which means focusing on the issues common to all. The handful of back-bench malcontents of the past weeks, rather than grumbling about the leadership, should look and see what they can learn from a man who tells us that when he sets a course, he sticks to it.
Richard Carey, UK

IDS must become more of a bruiser

John Atkins, England
IDS must become more of a bruiser, and shed his "Mr. Nice Guy" image. A strong opposition must have a strong leader, and IDS simply has not shown that he can give better than he gets.
John Atkins, England

The Tories are suffering in the doldrums with no sense of direction, just as Labour did in the 80's and early 90's. It will take a long time to unite again. Meanwhile, we have to suffer Tony Blair who thinks he "is" the people. Much like Thatcher in her day really. Hmm, "le plus ca change, le plus c'est la meme chose".
Dale, England

Come on, stand up and be counted! How many people really care whether the Tories sort themselves out or not? Since 1979 the Tories, especially under Margaret Thatcher, have pulled this country out of the 20th century almost back to the 19th. Never, again should the voting populace of the UK hand control of their lives back to them.
Peter R. Owen, UK

How ironic that IDS - one of the Eurosceptic clique that hounded the last Tory prime minister out of office, should call for unity. There is no unity to be had in the Conservative party. It is unable to hold both Europhiles and Eurosceptics, and one of those groups - probably the latter - will have to leave it behind.
John, England

The Conservatives blew it at the last leadership election. What they needed was a strong left-winger to lead them back to the centre ground, and with the mandate to marginalise the outdated right-wing. What they got was a weak, outdated, right-winger to cough and quietly complain about the left wingers in the party who were backing him until he severely provoked them.
Richard, UK

IDS is just another Hague. It's about time the conservatives realised that image is vital in modern politics. Look at Bush in America. He defeated Gore, in spite of the excellent record of the Democrats on the economy and other key issues. The Conservatives need a leader with a personality that can compete with Blair on a personal level, not another dinosaur.
Warwick Conway, UK

Sadly, it's all down to one word - passion. All the successful leaders in this country are those who have been passionate about their beliefs and politics - Churchill, Thatcher, even Blair - and because they've had that fire, it comes over to the public. IDS may be a nice man, doing a decent job - but he just doesn't show passion for the Tory cause.
David, UK

The Conservatives need a tough leader

Alex, England
No matter what your political persuasion, it is important the incumbent government have an effective opposition. The Conservative Party took two knockout blows in the elections of 1997 and 2001. They need more time, better alternative policies and fresh faces to present their new ideas. There is no faith in the bickering dinosaurs such as Clarke, Howard and Widdecombe. They have lost too much credibility during their last spell in government. Most of all the Conservatives need a tough leader behind whom the party can unite. John Major, William Hague and IDS are all 'jolly decent chaps' - but the party needs a bruiser.
Alex, England

The Tories deserve everything they get. They have giants like Clark and Portillo (both of whom could eat Blair for breakfast), yet they vote for Mr Nobody. No offence to the guy, but he's a complete nonentity. Until the blue-rinse brigade realise that what they want isn't what the electorate want, the Tories will NEVER be re-elected.
Alex Pinkerton, Scotland

I'm no lover of the Conservative party but this country needs an effective opposition party and at the going rate there could possibly be a split in the Tories similar to the Gang of Four in the 1980s.
James, UK

Sorry Ian, right idea but wrongly delivered

Ken, UK
I fear that Labour will lose that all important check and balance that effective opposition brings, and that needs a visionary leader not just token confrontation. Maybe we do need to move away from being so politically correct and start challenging the concept that you water down standards to the lowest common denominator. Sorry Ian, right idea perhaps, but wrongly delivered: you need to demonstrate clearly where you are going.
Ken, UK

The Tory party was the party of empire. With that gone and the discipline that flows from power also gone, the question now is not can the Tory party survive or can IDS survive, but who thinks it matters anyway. The Welsh and the Scots already know that the Tories are irrelevant; the English are gradually coming to that conclusion also.
Alan Jeavans, England

He is quite right. The Tories need to unite behind an effective leader or die behind a quiet non-entity.
Stuart, UK

IDS has overstepped the mark

Neil Small, Scotland
I have no love for any of our political parties. But the Tories need a swift kick up the backside if they want to be an effective opposition, which the country is screaming out for. But I'm afraid IDS has overstepped the mark and will be gone soon.
Neil Small, Scotland

What an amazing and unbelievable performance from IDS, the David Brent of British politics. His comedy series The Central Office is beginning to overshadow the Ricky Gervais masterpiece, with his management style making Brent look like the Sir John Harvey-Jones of the Slough Trading Estate. I don't know if he can survive but I certainly hope so, at least till the next series of The Office.
Andy Mac, UK

Please will the Tories elect someone who is a future Prime Minister - soon.
Colin, UK

This seems to be poetic justice! The troubles of the Conservative party can be traced back to the Maastricht rebellion. That shattered the image of the Conservatives as a united party. And who was it who led that rebellion I wonder? Step forward IDS. It's far too late for IDS to cry "unite or die". He personally, bears a large burden of responsibility for having caused the division in the first place, 10 years ago. He taught the Tories how to be disloyal to the leader. John Major is showing remarkable restraint in not sticking the knife in the man who betrayed him.
Mark B, UK

The Tories seem hopelessly divided, down and out

Bridget, London, UK
The Tories seem hopelessly divided, down and out. It's amazing when you think they were so strong in government for so long. Steve Norris got it right when he warned that the Lib Dems are overtaking the Tories. In my part of London it's happened - there are now no Tory councillors and they come fifth in local elections. I can't see IDS changing that.
Bridget, London, UK

In electing William Hague and Ian Duncan Smith, the Conservative Party elected leaders whom they liked, but who are patently incapable of attracting new voters. Perhaps the Tory matriarchy in the Shires chose nice young men they can 'mother', if only in their dreams? They should have let Kenneth Clarke hold the fort for three years when Major resigned, while the Tories rebuilt themselves.
Stuart Bell, UK

The left and right halves of the Tory party have been incompatible for decades. Whoever attempts to lead them as one party is fighting a losing battle. It is time the Tories faced up to this and divided into two parties who could at least vote together on issues do agree upon.
John Latusek, Wales, UK

It seems unjust to call him extreme for keeping his word to those who elected him

Giles Cowley, UK
Mr Duncan Smith required those he led to take the line he had been mandated to take by his party. Neil Kinnock was, rightly, applauded when he did just that with the Labour party in the 80s. It seems most unjust to call him extreme or unwise for keeping his word to those who elected him.
Giles Cowley, UK

IDS is right - without unity the Conservative party is dead. What he fails to realise though is that without tolerance it is also dead. The line insisted upon by him on the vote on adoption confirmed his level of tolerance. By choosing to censure members on a matter of conscience he has not only confirmed that lack of tolerance but further demonstrated his political naivety.
Richard Bankart, UK

IDS and his advisors have made a mistake in imposing a predetermined decision on such a broad ranging subject. As MPs are our democratically elected representatives, where is the democracy in a three line whip? In conjunction with growing vocal dissent, I do not hold out much hope for his position.
Ronnie, England

As a member of Conservative future, I am becoming increasingly concerned with the direction IDS is taking the party. He is being hypocritical with policies and causing internal infighting - all after such a good PMQ last Wednesday. I am not for changing leaders as often as we seem to be, but if the Tories are to regain public support I am afraid it is time for Mr Duncan Smith to go.
Dan, UK

He is the poorest leader of a national political party I can recall

Ed, London, UK
I listened with growing incredulity to Iain Duncan Smith's statement and disbelief when he would not take any questions. The Tories looking increasingly like a party of fools led by a man who is simply too afraid to lead. He is the poorest leader of a national political party I can recall.
Ed, London, UK

What the Tory party and IDS are lacking is any clear position. One minute they talk about moving on, being inclusive, changing to reflect society. Then they act as if nothing has changed. They continue to show themselves to be isolated from society and the concerns of most ordinary people. Until they start to show clearly and unambiguously what it is they stand for, people will continue to be suspicious that the new talk is simply that - talk, and nothing has really changed.
Stuart, UK

He is a hopeless extreme right-winger, who is completely out of touch. As a businessman trading with Europe I find Tory anti-Euro policy totally unacceptable, it is a nightmare trying to predict the exchange rate up to a year ahead. This latest issue is just another manifestation of how out of touch and irrelevant they are. The country needs a proper opposition.
Robert, Sussex

I've now lost all confidence in him

Ian Baxter, Scotland
IDS has blundered badly. As a Tory student I am amazed at how he has contrived to make a disaster from nothing, with a string of schoolboy errors. I voted for him in the leadership election, I thought he was taking us in the right direction. I've now lost all confidence in him.
Ian Baxter, Scotland

As a young person in Wales who votes Conservative I have never thought IDS had the personal qualities needed for this big challenge of uniting the party and pulling into line the trouble makers of the party. We need a figure who will call the shots, take no nonsense and take the party down the road of reform which IDS has begun.
Emily Tuttiett, Wales

What the Tories can't seem to get through their heads, is that middle England has moved on... whereas they haven't. Those of us in our 40s and 50s now, grew up in the 60s and 70s. Both Smith and his predecessor, Hague, sound as if they're addressing my parents' generation. Unfortunately for them, both my parents have now passed away. Tories do have something positive to offer: less government, rather than more. Until Smith recognises that, he will lead them further into the mire.
Linda, UK

Today's hastily arranged conference was typical of modern day Conservatism, all hype and no substance. IDS didn't even have the bottle to resign after all the mornings build-up - what a let down! What a shower...
Steve, Nottingham, UK

The left and right of the party have almost nothing in common

Tim Hiscock, UK
I have never been a supporter of the Conservative party, but laying the blame for their woes with IDS is misplaced. The Conservative party has been horrendously split between modernisers and traditionalists since Maggie Thatcher was replaced over 10 years ago. Even when Duncan Smith was elected, nearly 40% of the party's membership who voted backed the fiercely pro-European Ken Clarke. Unlike William Hague, Duncan-Smith has at least tried to grasp the thorn of party unity, but it looks to me like a lost cause. The left and right of the party have almost nothing in common, they are split virtually down the middle, and the only future for any of them is for the two camps to go their separate ways.
Tim Hiscock, UK

Ian has lost the support of his party and should step down and allow a younger more dynamic person to lead the party to election victory.
Michael Paul, England

I am a Labour voter, but even I am getting concerned now at the lack of a decent opposition. Without strong opposition, the parliamentary democracy cannot function as it should, and this is the situation we find ourselves in now. Unfortunately, the Tories are showing themselves to be more and more detached, and, sadly, unpleasant, as time goes by. At this rate, the Liberal Democrat desire to be the opposition looks a distinct possibility.
John, England

Bring on Clark or Portillo

Ken, UK
IDS cannot rely upon party loyalty when this was the very man who attempted to bring down the Major government in the mid-90s. What comes around goes around. For the good of UK politics we need a sound opposition party that is able to get a clear message across. "Quiet" men do not get heard! Bring on Clark or Portillo.
Ken, UK

IDS should stick to his guns. He cannot shape the party around the handful of MPs who don't agree with the majority. I wish the press would let him get on with his job instead of trying their hardest to bring him down. If he didn't apply the three line whip, I'm sure the press would have complained that he was a weak leader.
Leon, UK

IDS has just made himself look even more ridiculous/ desperate, by referring back to his appointment by the membership (one year ago). Perhaps a stronger leader would have sought the membership's on-going approval of his performance. Better yet, cleared the way for swifter modernisation, by resigning.
Doug, UK

He has dragged the Tories into the 21st century

Graham, England
As a member of the Tory party, pro-European and on the left (generally), I think Iain Duncan Smith is doing a great job. He faced down the racists by cutting links with the Monday Club, he and Theresa May are aiming for more women candidates, and he has dragged the Tories into the 21st century without a Tony Blair style ditching of every principle. Clarke and Portillo need to grow up and accept they are failures who lost and are of no relevance any more.
Graham, England

Politics in this country are becoming irrelevant due to the media's insistence on dumbing down the debate to personalities. The Labour government is failing badly, yet who notices or who holds them to account? No-one. IDS is new to the job, he is developing policies which are relevant to the population, the party has to unite and fight Labour and if those who don't want to do it under the democratically elected leader, can't reconcile themselves to this they should leave the party. I am a Conservative, not a liberal.
Mike, England

As far as I can see it... these so-called rebels have done IDS a favour. Now he and his party can clearly identify the small minority of Tory MPs who not only actively seek to undermine his leadership but also whose moral beliefs are clearly at odds with majority of the party and half the UK population.
James Bailey, York, England

I feel he has blundered rather badly

John Adlington, UK
I like and respect Iain Duncan Smith but in this case I feel he has blundered rather badly. Whether or not you favour adoption by homosexual couples it is certainly an issue of personal morality and therefore should not be a case for a three line whip. On the other hand I am sure there was a large degree of posturing from some of the rebels which is inexcusable.
John Adlington, UK

Those that think some Tory policies are of a different century, are probably themselves living in a hothouse of urban chatterers - not understanding that the majority of ordinary people are, at heart, rather conservative. The Tories would be better to stick to their traditional values and find a leader with enough confidence to express them with conviction. Remember Kinnock? He tried to change Labour without really believing in what he was doing, and they were 10 years in the wilderness.
John, UK

The Conservatives are so busy arguing amongst themselves that they seem to have forgotten that they are supposed to be a major political party. IDS does not provide inspired leadership - his speeches are more like auditions for Hamlet than political broadcasts. The way it's going the Lib Dems will be the main opposition at the next election, which is probably no bad thing.
Rachel, UK

I feel the Tories sacrificed their best chance of winning the next election in electing Iain Duncan Smith. He seems unable to make up his mind whether he wants to lead a nice party or a nasty party. The Tories need Michael Portillo, who at least seems to know which direction he wants to lead the party.
Julian Borrett, Leeds, UK

He has to reflect the morality of the party membership. And the average member of the Conservative party is above retirement age.
Jon E, France (expat UK)

At the moment the Conservatives are a very poor opposition party

Alistair, UK
Yes he is on the right track. Unfortunately he is not shouting loud enough. Back benchers have used this vote as a way of expressing their disappointment in their leader. At the moment the Conservatives are a very poor opposition party. The only thing Duncan-Smith can do to let the party have a chance in the next election is to stand down, and let somebody with a stronger character lead the way back to power. Nobody is going to vote for the little mouse we currently have.
Alistair, UK

The only way Iain Duncan Smith is going is out of the door marked EXIT
Nobby, Scotland

Not at all. He is cementing the Tories' reputation for being out of touch, irrelevant and yes, nasty. The Tories are a shambles. Thank goodness some of them had the sense to realise what an outrageous thing IDS was suggesting. He is simply making himself, and his party, more and more unelectable.
Nicholas, UK

Can the Tories unite?



12733 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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06 Nov 02 | Politics
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