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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
No witch-hunt for extremists, says Tory
Iain Duncan Smith at the Tory conference in Blackpool
Duncan Smith says he will be tough on intolerance
The Conservative Party's review of links with right-wing groups will not be a "witch-hunt", a Tory vice-chairman has promised.

Shailesh Vara, who this month became the party's first Asian vice-chairman, said the inquiry should only concern a very small number of people and groups.

The forces of Conservatism have become the forces of conformism and cowardice

Derek Turner
Editor, Right Now!
Iain Duncan Smith used his debut keynote conference speech as leader to promise he would not tolerate intolerance in the Conservative Party.

During the leadership race, Mr Duncan Smith was accused of attracting extremists after he sacked activist Edgar Griffin from his campaign because of links to the far-right British National Party (BNP).

Although the new leader has dismissed such claims, he is clearly determined to protect his party against similar embarrassment in the future.

Inquiry to begin

Three Tory MPs have resigned on the leadership's instructions from the right-wing Monday Club, which has also been asked not to claim any link to the Conservative Party.

In a move welcomed by those on the Tory left, party whip Julian Lewis is beginning an inquiry into extremism in the party.

Shailesh Vara
Vara says Tories generally have nothing to fear
Conservative MP Ian Taylor told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme on Thursday: "As Iain Duncan Smith found during the leadership campaign, it's extremely damaging to the party suddenly to find than an officer of an association has links with a far-right party."

But there are worries in some sections of the party that the inquiry could prove to be part of a purge. Purge worries

One of those concerned by the implications of the move is Derek Turner, editor of Right Now! magazine, the right-wing publication for which Tory MPs reportedly have been banned from writing.

"It demonstrates that the forces of Conservatism have become the forces of conformism and cowardice," he told the World At One.

And Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance, was worried that excluding the Monday Club set an unwise precedent for the party.

Mr Vara tried to quell such fears, saying few Conservative members would be affected by the inquiry.

"There is not going to be a witch-hunt," he told the programme.

"The matter concerns a very small number of groups who have very small memberships."

He said "appropriate action" would be taken once the results of the inquiry were compiled.

'No truck with racists'

"Iain Duncan Smith said that we would have no truck with racism and that we would be intolerant of intolerance.

"If there are small groups which are not going to adhere to Conservative principles then we will have nothing to do with them.

"I do not see that people in the party generally should take any fear or any worry from this at all."

Meanwhile, Martin Pritchard, a member of the Monday Club's executive council, dismissed claims that the club held racist views.

Saying he was "astonished" at the party's action over the club, he added: "We have members from all sectors of the community, which embraces Muslims, African and Jewish members."

See also:

07 Oct 01 | Conservatives
Tory MPs quit far-right Monday Club
06 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tories deny ignoring black vote
28 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith denies extremist support
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