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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
Tories enter contest's final stretch
Voting finishes on 11 September
By BBC Political Correspondent Norman Smith

Its going to be a bruising few weeks for Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith.

Not just because the political temperature is likely to start soaring upwards as the campaign goes on - but also because of the physical demands of this drawn out election process.

Key dates
15 August: Truce ends
20 August: Ballot papers sent out
22 August: First hustings
7 September: Last hustings
11 September: Ballot closes
12 September: Result announced
No wonder then that both men agreed to take a two-week holiday in the middle of it.

Now however the real battle begins. Over the next four weeks the two rivals will be trying to meet as many Tory party members as possible.

In their hands lies the final decision on who will become the next Tory leader.

Clarke scales up meetings

Already, Mr Clarke has instructed his staff to double the number of constituency meetings they have arranged for him.

Now he is expecting to attend about five or six events a day rather than the two or three that had originally been pencilled in for him.

His staff say he will be visiting constituencies representing around 90% of the party's membership.

Euro anxieties

The aim of the Clarke team will be to allay party members anxieties over Mr Clarke's pro-euro views and to ram home the message that he is the man most likely to knock Tony Blair about and beat New Labour.

Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke: Popular despite his support for euro
Iain Duncan Smith's team say their man has already begun his ferocious itinerary of meetings the length and breadth of Britain, including one at Tony Blair's old school - Fettes in Edinburgh.

From today IDS (as he's known by his supporters) will begin a 30-day regional tour.

Their aim will be to raise the profile of a man little known outside of Westminster circles and to dispel criticism that their man is a hard right Eurosceptic who will have little appetite for modernising the party.

Both sides, however, are keeping details of these constituency visits quiet, hoping to avoid a media circus following them around, and upsetting the Tory members they're trying to win over.

Taking to the hustings

On top of these constituency visits there will also be eight regional hustings where both men will address party members for half an hour before a question and answer session.

These will be closed to the general public and the media and the two rivals will address the audiences separately.

Indeed, the only time the two men are scheduled to go "head to head" is on BBC 2's Newsnight next Wednesday.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith: A less known figure than his rival
The Clarke team have accused the Duncan Smith camp of running scared over such face to face debates amid claims that Mr Duncan Smith pulled out of similar debates on Radio 4's Today programme and Channel 4 News - claims vehemently denied by the Duncan Smith team.

Next Monday ballot papers will be sent out by second class post to the 300,000 paid up members of the Tory party.

Only those who have been members of the party for at least three months will be allowed to vote.

They will then have until noon on 11 September to return their ballot papers.

The vote is being overseen by the Electoral Reform Society who will begin counting the ballot papers the next day and hope to complete the count by mid-afternoon.

The winner will then be announced at a news conference soon after.

And only then does the work of the next Tory leader really begin - making his party a credible threat to New Labour.


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