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Saturday, 5 October, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Tories 'must get act together'
Kenneth Clarke
Clarke: Party must begin to formulate policies
Former leadership contender Kenneth Clarke has said the Conservative Party must come up with some harder-hitting policies or face losing more public support.

Speaking ahead of Monday's Tory conference in Bournemouth, Mr Clarke told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the party needed to tackle key issues like crime, health and the economy, and adopt a stronger stance on Iraq.


We now need to have some policies, to get some flesh on the bones

Kenneth Clarke

He also declined to rule himself out from standing again for leader, but insisted Iain Duncan Smith would lead the party into the next election, despite suggestions from insiders his time is "running out".

'Quiet and steady'

The comments came as shadow chancellor Michael Howard warned Mr Duncan Smith's Tory critics to back off.

On the Today programme, Mr Clarke said it was time for the Tories to put their plans before the electorate, after a year devoted to policy formulation.

He said: "We need to get our act together. We now need to have some policies, to get some flesh on the bones.

"I am quite patient to wait for my colleagues to actually do some work, produce some policies.

"I think they now need to start producing some at this conference, and I think they will."

Mr Duncan Smith had had a "quiet, steady" 12 months as leader, said Mr Clarke, adding: "Better a rather quiet first year than instantly rushing about trying to get headlines in the Daily Mail every morning.

"That kind of populist strident politics didn't work before the election and I don't want to go back to that."

Mr Clarke also warned the Tories' unqualified support for Tony Blair and US President George Bush over Iraq risked making them appear "America's poodle".

He insisted his comments were not intended as a criticism of Mr Duncan Smith, but they will increase pressure on him as he goes into his party's annual conference.

'Massively ambitious'

In a week which has seen a number of private attacks on Mr Duncan Smith's personal style and strategy, Michael Howard has rounded on critics to back off.

In an interview in Saturday's Financial Times, he describes their behaviour as "thoroughly reprehensible".

It follows an article in Friday's FT, in which shadow cabinet members suggested the Tory leader was "losing the plot slightly".

Meanwhile Shadow Home Secretary Oliver Letwin announced he would never stand to be leader of the party.

Mr Letwin's admission, in an interview with The Times on Saturday, also dashes the hopes of supporters who had lined him up as a potential future leader.

His comment came amid talk of possible leadership challenges, stoked by the publication of an article in the Spectator magazine - edited by Tory MP Boris Johnson - which suggested time was "running out" for Mr Duncan Smith.

Oliver Letwin
Letwin: I won't stand

Mr Letwin told The Times: "I don't want to lead the Conservative Party. I will never stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

"I would very much like to be Home Secretary. I would not mind having a go at Chancellor.

"I am massively ambitious but not for that particular post."

He said he was not interested in the leadership because he wanted "a life".

One-time Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind also stoked the pre-conference fire saying Mr Duncan-Smith had damaged his party's credibility with "unquestioning" support for Tony Blair over Iraq.

Ex-minister and London mayoral candidate Steve Norris also said the party's agenda for modernising was "intellectually incoherent".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Kenneth Clarke is critical on the party's policies - or a lack of them"
Former chancellor Kenneth Clarke
"We need to get our act together, that's true"
David Mellor, former Conservative MP
"The first time a Conservative leader has fallen behind a Lib Dem leader"

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05 Oct 02 | Politics
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15 Aug 02 | Politics
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