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Sunday, 19 August, 2001, 04:26 GMT 05:26 UK
Tory rivals prepare for ballot
Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith has gained increasing support
The two contenders in the Conservative leadership contest are preparing to launch their manifestoes.

Ballot papers are due to be sent out on Monday to party members as the battle between Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke enters its final stages.

Mr Duncan Smith's team has been buoyed by receiving the endorsement of William Hague and two Sunday newspapers.

But Mr Clarke's camp has emphasised the need to win back the voters that Mr Hague failed to attract in the last election.

Hague's backing

Departing leader Mr Hague has revealed that he favours the shadow defence secretary as his successor because he fears Mr Clarke could split the party over Europe.

Ken Clarke
Mr Clarke said his rival wanted to take Britain out of Europe
His backing came in a letter to the chairman of his Richmond constituency association, Ron Kirk, obtained by the Sunday Telegraph.

Mr Hague said he had "a particularly high regard" for Mr Duncan Smith.

He praised him for his qualities including his "strong and sound beliefs", "integrity and courage" and "highly effective leadership".

He added: "I fear the alternative to his election would be for our party to slide back into the divisions over Europe we have done so much to move away from."

And he said he would cast his vote for Mr Duncan Smith to be his successor.

New poll

A poll in The Sunday Telegraph suggests Mr Duncan Smith's popularity has grown during the campaign.

A fifth of Tory voters polled by ICM said they were more likely to back a party led by the shadow defence secretary, compared with 14% for Mr Clarke.

The Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times also set out their support Mr Duncan Smith.

The Sunday Telegraph described Mr Clarke as "dangerously out of step" with the party on Europe, while praising his rival as "easily the most successful of Mr Hague's team".

The Sunday Times praised Mr Duncan Smith for his "decency, tenacity and energy."

The battle between the pair intensified on Saturday when Mr Clarke launched a strong attack on his rival, accusing him of being a "complete unknown" who wanted to take Britain out of the European Union.

Tory party members have until noon on 11 September to return their ballot papers.

Counting will begin the following day.

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The BBC's Guto Harri
"William Hague has always been fond of Iain Duncan Smith"

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See also:

18 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Hague backs Duncan Smith
15 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tories enter contest's final stretch
18 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke denies personal tactics
16 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Clarke: I'm best chance for Tories
15 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tories warned of 'mighty task ahead'
29 Jul 01 | UK Politics
No euro purge says Duncan Smith
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