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EDITIONS
Monday, 16 July, 2001, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Duncan Smith wins Ancram backing
Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith - most likely to top Tory MPs' ballot
Iain Duncan Smith's campaign to lead the Conservative Party has received a boost with former rival Michael Ancram giving his backing to the right-winger.

Just hours before 166 Conservative MPs are due to decide which two of the three remaining leadership hopefuls will go forward to a final ballot of the entire party membership, Mr Ancram said Mr Duncan Smith was best placed to unite the Tories.

"I believe him to be the candidate who can best unite our party, who can best reassert our core Conservative principles and who is best likely to deliver the changes which can create the springboard to victory at the next election," the former Tory chairman said.

Both Mr Duncan Smith's rivals, Michael Portillo and Ken Clarke, had admitted that the shadow defence secretary was Tuesday's favourite even before news of Mr Ancram's decision was made public.


If Ken Clarke were to become leader there are certain Tory MPs and activists who simply wouldn't recognise him

Lord Baker
Mr Portillo received a welcome respite when Mr Hague publicly dismissed claims by his former press secretary that Mr Portillo's aides had briefed against the leadership during the general election campaign.

Meanwhile, the pro-European Mr Clarke boosted his claim to be able to represent the whole party as he announced four new Eurosceptic supporters.

Not over-confident

As two of the largest bookmakers made Mr Duncan Smith favourite, he was more circumspect about his chances.

"It's going well but I am not over-confident," he told BBC News.

Michael Portillo
Michael Portillo has denied allegations of betrayal
Mr Hague said in a statement that he was confident he had enjoyed the full support of his team during the election campaign, despite the broadcast of a video diary by his former press secretary Amanda Platell.

The programme, on Channel 4 on Sunday, contained allegations that Mr Portillo's friends undermined Mr Hague during the election campaign.

Mr Hague said: "I am confident I had the full support and loyalty of all members of the shadow cabinet."

After Tuesday's vote by MPs, all 300,000 party members will take party in a ballot to choose the leader - the result will be given on 12 September.

Enthusiasm

Mr Clarke, flanked by eight of his supporters, posed outside the House of Commons on Monday as efforts by all three candidates to win last-minute support moved up a gear.

Mr Clarke told reporters: "It is obviously between myself and Michael Portillo in second place with Iain Duncan Smith, although I would hope I might find myself ahead."

His aim, Mr Clarke said, was to recapture the enthusiasm of a party which had "had enough of the polarising on Europe".

Mr Portillo has also been forced to deny claims about a Sunday newspaper report that Lady Thatcher backed him over Mr Duncan Smith.

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke: wants compromise over Europe
A "furious" Lady Thatcher reportedly blamed him for the story which she says is false.

She issued a statement saying: "This story is plain wrong.

"I do not hold the views which it attributes to me and I am not backing Michael Portillo against Iain Duncan Smith."

But shadow chancellor Mr Portillo has received some good news with public declarations of support from two former Tory chairmen - Lord Baker and Lord Parkinson - and 11 leading businessmen.

Business support

Lord Baker said that victory for either Mr Clarke or Mr Duncan Smith could split the party.

He said: "If Ken Clarke were to become leader there are certain Tory MPs and activists who simply wouldn't recognise him."

He added: "He is a very stubborn man. I think that would divide the party - civil war."

Former minister John Redwood said he was supporting Mr Duncan Smith because he was not tainted by the economic problems of the early 1990s.

The shadow defence minister's odds have been shortened to 8-11 by bookmaker's William Hill, ahead of Kenneth Clarke who is now second favourite at 15-8.

Former frontrunner Mr Portillo is languishing in third place at odds of 10-3.

Michael Ancram was eliminated from the race last Thursday, a day before the other candidate David Davis dropped out.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar
"There will be more speculation that the Thatcherite contender could top the ballot"
Andrew Mitchell MP and John Redwood
discuss the prospects of Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith
Eric Forth MP and Lord Baker
discuss the prospects of Duncan Smith and Michael Portillo

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16 Jul 01 | Business
15 Jul 01 | UK Politics
14 Jul 01 | UK Politics
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
13 Jul 01 | UK Politics
19 Jul 02 | UK Politics
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
19 Jul 02 | UK Politics
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