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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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He is quite right. The Tories need to unite behind an effective leader or die behind a quiet non-entity.
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.
Please will the Tories elect someone who is a future Prime Minister - soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He has to reflect the morality of the party membership. And the average member of the Conservative party is above retirement age.
The only way Iain Duncan Smith is going is out of the door marked EXIT
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.
06 Nov 02 | Politics
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