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The BBC's Tim Finch
"The controversy might help Iain Duncan Smith"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Amanda Patell's words could still cost Mr Portillo votes, if he even gets that far"
 real 56k

The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"It depends on how much you rate the words of Amanda Patell"
 real 56k

Sunday, 15 July, 2001, 01:31 GMT 02:31 UK
Portillo faces betrayal claims
Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo says he always supported William Hague
Michael Portillo's Tory leadership hopes will be dealt another blow on Sunday with accusations that his supporters betrayed William Hague at the height of the general election campaign.

Mr Hague's former press secretary Amanda Platell makes the claims in a video diary which she recorded in secret during the campaign and which has been made into a documentary.

But the allegations have been vehemently rejected by Mr Portillo, who says he gave his full support to Mr Hague.

Amanda Platell
Amanda Platell: Made her video diary during the election
In the programme, to be screened on Channel 4 on Sunday evening, Ms Platell accuses "Portillo's people" of briefing against the Tory leader and of trying to undermine him.

Mr Portillo's ally and leadership campaign manager Francis Maude is also accused of rubbishing Mr Hague.

But right-wing leadership contender Iain Duncan Smith is said to have argued that Mr Hague was "the only man who can lead the party" in the hours after the crushing poll defeat on 7 June.

Shadow Chancellor Mr Portillo has already conceded that he has lost ground in the contest and no longer believes he will win in the next round of voting on Tuesday.

He had been the frontrunner and topped the first two ballots of Tory MPs since Mr Hague announced he was standing down.

But he was dealt a blow when former Europe Minister David Davis quit the race to back Mr Duncan Smith on Friday.

In a further development, Lady Thatcher's private office dismissed a story in the Sunday Telegraph claiming she believes Mr Portillo is the best leadership candidate.

Denials

A spokesman said the former prime minister had "categorically denied that she is saying that she is backing Michael Portillo."

The Sunday Telegraph claims that a member of Lady Thatcher's inner circle has let it be known that Mr Duncan Smith was not felt to have sufficient experience.

Until now it was assumed that Mr Duncan Smith would be the candidate most likely to get her backing.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: right-wing contender
The spokesman said that Lady Thatcher had not yet supported any of the candidates.

It has also been reported that fellow former Tory premier John Major plans to urge party members not to vote for Mr Duncan Smith.

Mr Major will come out against the right-winger if he makes it to the decisive ballot of the party's 300,000-strong membership, The Sunday Times said.

The shadow defence secretary was a leading Eurosceptic rebel in parliamentary debates over the Maastricht treaty during Mr Major's time in Number 10.

But friends insist the former prime minister will act in the interests of the party rather than revenge.

"John simply holds the view that Duncan Smith is not the figure to lead the party back to power," one told the paper.

Frantic campaigning

The remaining candidates in the leadership contest are frantically campaigning ahead of Tuesday's ballot to eliminate one of them from the race.

The 166 Tory MPs will choose which two challengers will go before all 300,000 Tory members, with the victor named on 12 September.

It is widely believed that Mr Portillo will struggle to win more than a few votes from the 35 MPs who backed Mr Davis or Michael Ancram, who was knocked out in Thursday's re-run first round.

Up to 12 of the 18 MPs who backed Mr Davis are expected to switch to Mr Duncan Smith, with up to six voting for Mr Clarke.

At least half of the 17 who backed Mr Ancram are expected to change their allegiance to Mr Clarke, with the remainder more likely to support Mr Duncan Smith than Mr Portillo.

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See also:

14 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo 'expects to finish second'
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tory race on knife edge
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
And then there were three
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Dark horse bows out of race
11 Jul 01 | UK Politics
MPs face Tory vote pressure
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Dead heat forces Tory poll re-run
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo under fire as Tory vote opens
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Ancram, the emollient earl
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