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EDITIONS
Friday, 16 August, 2002, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Tories dismiss 'ridiculous' critics
Iain Duncan Smith at Tory conference
The direction taken by Duncan Smith is under scrutiny
A spokesman for Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has rejected as "ridiculous" criticism that the party has lost its way.


There is no split - There is a healthy debate within the Tory party

Nick Weston, "Start Again Party"

Mr Duncan Smith returned from holiday on Friday to reports of growing dissent in the Tory ranks over the party's direction.

Some right-wing critics have accused Mr Duncan Smith of betraying the Tories' Thatcherite legacy.

While the libertarian left of the party was reported to be showing signs of unrest at the pace of reform.

'Healthy debate'

However, reports of an alleged plot by a group of young Tories to form a breakaway Start Again party have proved groundless.


There is no brand loyalty to the name Conservatives any more

Michael Peters, marketing expert
The man behind the alleged plot, former Conservative general election candidate Nick Weston, said the reports stemmed from a "misinterpretation" of an e-mail he had circulated looking for ideas to revitalise the party.

"There is no split. There is a healthy debate within the Tory party," Mr Weston told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

"There is an ongoing meeting of minds and meeting of people where we exchange ideas and exchange opinions."

Mr Weston said he was "disappointed" that elements within the Conservatives and the media had interpreted "healthy debate" as a leadership challenge.

He said he was "very supportive" of the Tory leadership and would remain within the party.

Mr Weston added that he had circulated an unsigned e-mail asking selected party members what their policies would be if they were creating a new Start Again Party.

He also set up a website for discussion of any ideas generated.

'Spouting baloney'

On Thursday, a former adviser Tory chancellor Norman Lamont, accused the Tory leadership of neglecting the party's core values.

Rupert Darwall
Rupert Darwall: Sought return to 1980s policies
In a report for the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies, Rupert Darwall sought a return to the tax-cutting agenda which had won the Tories successive elections in the 1980s.

He accused Tory spokesmen of "spouting baloney" about the public services and compassion for the vulnerable.

He said the party had been "paralysed" by Tony Blair's electoral success.

'Firing people'

The marketing guru who helped re-brand the Conservatives in the early 1980s has also joined in, calling for the party to dump Mr Duncan Smith.

Michael Peters, who designed the Tories' blazing torch symbol, said the Tories need a less "anonymous" leader.

He said it was "very evident that nobody actually knows now what the Conservative Party stands for".

"Under Margaret Thatcher there was a very clear vision as to what the Tories represented and where they were going, but there has been very little direction under subsequent leaders."

'No brand loyalty'

He said the Tories needed to come up with "three or four" radical ideas to show the public what they stood for.

"Maybe they should even change their name and their identity.

"There is no brand loyalty to the name Conservatives any more.

"If they don't do this, I believe the Tory party will disappear in its current form within two electoral periods."

'Ridiculous'

A spokesman for Mr Duncan Smith said Mr Peters was "just trying to gain publicity for his company".

He said reports of growing dissent in the Tory ranks were "just ridiculous", even for the traditional August "silly season".

Deputy leader Michael Ancram has also hit back at claims the party was neglecting its principles.

In a BBC radio interview, he highlighted key Tory beliefs - in choice, freedom of the individual, the family, in giving back power to communities and institutions and belief in the UK.

See also:

15 Aug 02 | Politics
14 Aug 02 | Politics
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13 Aug 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Politics
15 Aug 02 | Politics
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