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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Duncan Smith mulls Tory challenge
Iain Duncan Smith talks to Andrew Marr
Iain Duncan Smith: Taking soundings
Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith is weighing up whether to join Michael Portillo in the battle to become the Conservative Party leader.

The Chingford and Woodford Green MP said he was taking "soundings" on the issue and was "listening to a lot of people".

Michael Portillo announcing his entering of the race to journalists
Michael Portillo is the first confirmed candidate
Michael Portillo became the first confirmed candidate on Wednesday morning, after William Hague resigned on Friday in the wake of the general election.

Mr Duncan Smith said he believed party activists wanted a choice when the time came to cast their votes.

Contest timetable
27 June - election of new chairman/executive of the 1922 Committee, which runs the contest
28 June or 5 July - possible close of leadership nominations
3 or 10 July - first ballot of MPs
5 or 12 July - second ballot of MPs
10 or 17 July - possible final ballot of MPs
Mid-late July - ballot papers sent to grass roots members
Early August - winner declared

In an interview with BBC political editor Andrew Marr, he said it was important that the eventual winner was someone who would not split the party.

"The trick here has got to be that whoever does it is firm and has the trust of the party," he said.

He added that party members must feel the eventual winner "has that steel in them that would take them through the difficult moments".

Thatcherite traditions

Mr Duncan Smith is regarded as being to the right of Mr Portillo, and a strong defender of Thatcherite traditions.

He dismissed suggestions that the party was in the process of burying the Thatcherite legacy.

"Times change, you move on," he said.

"What happened in the mid-70s and took us through the 80s was profound in exactly the same way as we will have to change and move into the 21st century," he told Channel 4 News.

Ann Widdecombe on Wednesday
Ann Widdecombe may also join the battle
"What you do is you learn from history, you don't bury it.

"Changes need to be made both to parties and, not their core beliefs, but how you apply those beliefs, to things like the public services."

Mr Duncan Smith welcomed the endorsement of Lord Tebbit, who recently praised his conventional family lifestyle.

"I'm very happy to have anyone's comments that are kind and pleasant," said Mr Duncan Smith.

It was suggested that Lord Tebbit's remarks were essentially an attack on Mr Portillo for his gay past.

Mr Duncan Smith insisted that the Conservative Party was not homophobic.

"There may be some people like that, but I think by and large the Conservative Party is essentially a tolerant party, and perhaps we need to stress that tolerance more than we have in the past."

Other Conservative politicians believed to be considering a challenge to Mr Portillo include shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe, former chancellor Kenneth Clarke and chairman of the Public Accounts Committee David Davis.

BBC correspondents said Mr Duncan Smith seems to acknowledge he might come second among the MPs at Westminster.

However, he thinks he could do much better with the party membership at large once they vote later this in the summer.

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13 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Portillo kicks off leadership battle
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