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Saturday, 8 September, 2001, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
Tory rivals coy on vote outcome
Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke: Played down his earlier confidence
Tory leadership candidates Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith are avoiding speculation as to who might have clinched victory.

Mr Clarke had earlier predicted he would be the next Conservative leader.

The results of the ballot to replace William Hague as leader will be known on Wednesday.

You may think that but I couldn't possibly comment

Iain Duncan Smith
On the issue of Ken Clarke's arrogance
Mr Clarke and rival Mr Duncan Smith shared a platform for the last time in the campaign as they courted the party's younger members at the Conservative Future annual conference at Manchester's Umist university.

The former chancellor said he "really doesn't know" who was ahead while Mr Duncan Smith, the firm favourite, said: "I'm confident but I don't make predictions."

Mr Clarke's supporters have been trying to play down his remarks made on the campaign trail in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on Friday night.

Comments qualified

Mr Clarke told BBC News on Friday: "I think I've won, and I think I've had the opportunity to put my case to the membership at large about how we get back into mainstream politics."

Playing down the statement, Mr Clarke said on Saturday: "What I said was that my feeling from the meeting was that I had won.

Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith joined Mr Clarke in Manchester
"I really don't know who has won as it is very difficult to canvass the 150,000 people who have returned ballot papers so far."

Mr Clarke was greeted on his arrival at the conference by a band of supporters wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan "Ken for No. 10".

Asked if he thought Mr Clarke was arrogant for allegedly predicting victory, the shadow defence secretary replied: "You may think that but I couldn't possibly comment."

Public services

Mr Duncan Smith said winning the votes in both leadership and general elections depended on a clear commitment to improving public services.

He said: "The issues people care about are the ones that affect them the most. That is health, transport, education and public services.

"Those are the issues I have campaigned on and if I'm fortunate enough to become leader, shall continue to concentrate on."

Speaking in a city known for its vibrant gay community, Mr Duncan Smith outlined his liberal credentials, saying: "I think people must choose to live their lives the way they choose and what we have to do as a party is accept that.

"People have the right to lead the lives they lead and it is the quality of life that is important.

Young people

"We are about improving the quality of life for all sections of the community."

Mr Clarke said the key to winning the votes of young people was to inject idealism back into politics.

He added: "We need to get young Conservatives and young people generally back into politics and into the Conservative Party.

"Young people have been quite hostile to politics in large numbers and what is needed is a little conviction, a little enthusiasm and idealism in politics."

Bets stopped

An e-mail survey of Conservative Future members last month found that the majority believed Mr Duncan Smith most represented their views, but Mr Clarke came out on top on the question of who would make the more successful leader.

Bookmaker William Hill has stopped taking bets on the contest with Iain Duncan Smith 2/7 favourite and Mr Clarke as 5/2 outsider.

A William Hill spokesman said the book was being closed before voting patterns left them vulnerable to punters with "inside information".

Nearly three-quarters of the 318,000 Tory members have already voted in the postal ballot, which closes next Tuesday.

The BBC's Sean Curran
"The former chancellor has the backing of most younger members"
On Radio 5 Live:
Andrew Lansley MP and John Bercow MP discuss the candidates

Recent stories

The final two


See also:

07 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Tory hopefuls make final pitch
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