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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Duncan Smith denies 'right wing' tag
Iain Duncan Smith is interviewed by Jimmy Young on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday
Iain Duncan Smith receives a poll boost on Thursday
Conservative leadership contender Iain Duncan Smith has sought to play down his right-wing credentials by saying he does not understand the concept of right or left wing.

His remarks follow a series of claims in recent days that he is backed by extremists and came the same day that rival Ken Clarke described him as a classic Tory right-wing "hanger and a flogger".

He is a hanger and a flogger, which always used to be the epitome of a right-wing Tory

Ken Clarke on Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Clarke said Mr Duncan Smith had a collection of "very right-wing" supporters, was more Eurosceptic than William Hague and had been associated with all the Tories' right-wing pressure groups.

Despite the claims, a new opinion poll on Thursday suggests Mr Duncan Smith has overtaken his rival as the most popular choice for leader among Tory supporters, although Mr Clarke is the favourite of voters in general.

Poll lead

The Mori poll for the Times newspaper said 41% of Conservative voters surveyed on the question of who would be the better leader chose Mr Duncan Smith against 36% for Mr Clarke.

A similar poll last month gave Mr Clarke a 13% lead over his opponent but the latest poll gives the former chancellor a 39%-23% lead among all voters.

A spokesman for Mr Clarke said he was "delighted" to see the poll, which showed the former chancellor commanded the support of wavering or previous Tory voters needed to defeat Tony Blair.

The acrimony of the leadership battle continued as both contenders gave separate interviews with broadcaster Jimmy Young on BBC Radio 2 on Wednesday.

Mr Duncan Smith said it was a misconception that he was right wing and argued the right-left concept was a Westminster obsession not shared by voters.

Family champion

Mr Duncan Smith, who last week sacked Edgar Griffin for his close links with the far-right British National Party, is a champion of traditional family values and has in the past supported the return of caning in schools and capital punishment.

On Tuesday, he moved to deny claims that Tory MP Andrew Hunter had been removed from his supporters' list because of his right-wing connections.

When I'm asked about this so-called concept of right wing or left wing, I just do not understand it

Iain Duncan Smith

Mr Clarke said: "I quite agree with his frustration at being described as right wing but this is because both of us have been dogged with questions about Europe."

"He is more Eurosceptic than William Hague and otherwise he is a hanger and a flogger, which always used to be the epitome of a right-wing Tory.

"He is someone who has been associated with all the pressure groups which regard themselves as the right-wing pressure groups in the party."

Vetting claim

Referring to supporter lists on Mr Duncan Smith's campaign website, Mr Clarke later said "names come and go with bewildering regularity".

He said: "He has got a whole collection of very right-wing people supporting him and he is obviously trying to vet them," claimed the former chancellor.

Ken Clarke on the Jimmy Young show
Clarke: Says his rival is vetting supporters
Mr Duncan Smith said "when I'm asked about this so-called concept of right wing or left wing, I just do not understand it".

"People do not get up in the morning and say 'Thank God because I'm on the right or I'm on the left'."

Instead, the public worried about healthcare and education for their families.

A spokesman for Mr Duncan Smith later insisted no campaign supporters' names had been removed from his website, but that some had gone missing due to a "clerical error, which was immediately rectified once it was brought to our attention".

The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Are they about to elect a man they like but the country will never accept?"

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See also:

29 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Rifkind puts Clarke on unity trial
28 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith denies extremist support
28 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tory party 'must exclude racists'
27 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith: Tories open to all
27 Aug 01 | UK Politics
'Nastiest ever' Tory leadership battle
24 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tory grandees 'failed' to vet Griffin
23 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Tory feuding goes on
17 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Lib Dems welcome 'wipe out' threat
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