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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 00:20 GMT 01:20 UK
Battle lines drawn
Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke will appear on Newsnight at 2230BST
Tuesday's debate was the only head-to-head clash
BBC Political Correspondent Shaun Ley counts the points as Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith go head-to-head.

The joint Newsnight/BBC Radio Five Live debate was the only chance to see Kenneth Clarke and Iain Duncan-Smith in a face-to-face debate for the Conservative leadership contest.

Even party members who attend hustings meetings being held around the country will be denied that opportunity.

Both candidates knew it made this live broadcast all the more important to their chances of securing victory when the votes are counted next month.

Europe acts as a touchstone to expose deep fault lines

Kenneth Clarke was first on the offensive, accusing his rival of being behind the decision to campaign in the general election on Europe.

Iain Duncan Smith responded by arguing that it is the future that matters - and the party has already decided it will take a sceptical line on Europe and on the euro.

Differences played up

In the absence of clear policy differences elsewhere, this is the division which both men's supporters have decided to play up.

At the same time as they lament the media obsession with Europe, they continue to argue about it because they know it matters to the 300,000 people who will decide this contest - the party members.

Ken Clarke
Clarke was first onto the offensive
To those outside the party, though, it simply accentuates division.

As Donald Trelford, the former editor of the Observer newspaper commented, Europe is to the Tories what defence was to Labour in the eighties - not an issue of immediate and overwhelming concern to the voters, but one which acts as a touchstone to expose deep fault lines.

It was never realistic to expect the issue not to dominate.

Sharing blame

In part the media are, of course, to blame: division is a better story than the unifying debate among friends optimistically predicted by Michael Ancram when he was - briefly - a candidate.

But the supporters of the candidates must take their share of the blame, too.

When on Wednesday John Major accused Iain Duncan Smith of disloyalty to his government, he was drawing attention to Europe; when Baroness Thatcher wrote to the Daily Telegraph the day before saying a party led by Ken Clarke would either be bitterly divided or "deeply cynical", she was talking about Europe.

Missed opportunity

That, in essence, is why this was a missed opportunity for the Conservative leadership contenders. They should have taken charge of the debate, and challenged each other's policies in a host of other areas.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith talked of lessons from abroad
There was a glimmer of this towards the end when Iain Duncan Smith talked with feeling about the lessons to be learned from other European countries about health and education.

Kenneth Clarke was perhaps a little too dismissive of the idea of education credits.

If he really intends to set up policy commissions in these areas he ought at least to avoid closing off possible avenues before they've even been debated.

One passion

But the truth is that the only real passion we glimpsed from these would-be prime ministers was over Europe.

Perhaps that is because both men really see this not as a competition between two colleagues, but as a much wider contest for the soul of their party, and may be of their country, too.

It could turn out to have been in vain, according to the former Conservative MP, Michael Brown.

He says he thinks his parents are typical of Tory members.

As soon as the ballot papers arrived, they filled them in and sent them back.

Asked why they in such a hurry, Mr and Mrs Brown said they could not risk waiting, in case the post office didn't deliver their ballot papers back to the Conservative Party in time.

As for waiting for the Newsnight debate, well that was well past their bed time.

The BBC's Guto Harri
"Ken Clarke is delighted that his former boss has backed him"
Former Prime Minister, John Major
"We need political leadership that can attract those who deserted us"
Former Conservative chairman Lord Tebbit
"Ken Clarke is the leader Labour want most"

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The final two


See also:

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29 Jul 01 | UK Politics
No euro purge says Duncan Smith
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