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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Clarke anger over Tory leader's attack

Ex-chancellor Kenneth Clarke has hit out at his party leader's attack on the John Major government and left the door open for a future leadership bid.


There is no point in trashing the Major government's record at large

Kenneth Clarke
Mr Clarke told a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference that no Tory should be made to give up "lingering, lifetime" leadership ambitions.

The MP, who was defeated by Mr Duncan Smith in last year's leadership race, said he refused to go through the ritual denials over his future leadership hopes.

He said the Tory leader's attack on John Major's administration was a "serious mistake".

Appalling

He defended the Major government's record, saying: "One thing we were not trashed for in 1997 is our economic record."

Clarke: Major government left sound economic base
It had inherited "a pretty appalling economic situation" but laid the foundations for economic success in Labour's first term, he said.

"There is no point in trashing the Major government's record at large," he said.

"The thing we have to try to trash is ... the air of civil war, sleaze, scandal - we added to the jollity of nations but we distracted everyone from the process of government."

Concern

Asked about his leadership ambitions, he said he believed that Mr Duncan Smith would fight the next election as Tory leader.

"I therefore don't think we should work our way through the Conservative Party from the most likely to the most unlikely candidates getting them to renounce any lingering, lifetime ambition they may have," he said.

He also said many Conservatives were concerned by the leadership's support US policy on Iraq.

"Many Conservatives take the view that they want something very much more ordered than this," he said.

"They are not just signing up to a march on Baghdad, a change of regime without a wider coalition or some supporting body of legality."

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