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EDITIONS
Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
The Tory Terminator
Iain and Betsy Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith, pointing the way ahead

Iain Duncan Smith knows he has a charisma problem - so he has attempted to portray himself as the quiet but deadly man of British politics.

He wants us to believe that, while he has trouble emoting, he has the iron will and discipline of a cold-blooded military man - the Tory Terminator.

Once he has sighted his target, nothing will get in his way.

And once he has identified an enemy, their days are numbered.

He feels no pain, no remorse and he absolutely will not stop - ever.

He even paraphrased Arnie Schwarzenegger in his payoff line: "The Conservatives are back."

Known danger

All that was missing was an: "Hasta la vista Tony."


Those of you who do not know me yet will come to understand this - when I say a thing, I mean it

Iain Duncan Smith
He reminded the conference of his past in the military and business.

"I've known danger and I've tasted disappointment."

And he attacked the senior Tories who have been sniping at him, effectively telling them they were past it.

But, the danger now for Mr Duncan Smith is that instead of conjuring up images of the Terminator, he will be portrayed by his enemies as Captain Mainwaring - full of bluster and ultimately ineffectual.

So his speech to the Tory faithful in Bournemouth was a huge gamble. But he knew it.

I mean it

He wheeled out the evidence to support his contention that he is not a man to be messed with.

In the key section of his speech, and in a voice that grew quieter as he reached his climax, he reminded the conference that, when he led the Maastricht rebellion against John Major, senior Tories told him to back down or his political career would be over.

"Those of you who do not know me yet will come to understand this - when I say a thing, I mean it.

"When I set myself a task, I do it. When I settle on a course, I stick to it."

And then, in a voice that was now barely audible in an effort to underline his message, came his punchline.

"Do not underestimate the determination of a quiet man."

And they loved it. They could not have given his words a better reception if they had been primed.

New policies

There were a couple of clearly planted cheers, but the reaction was genuine. Whether because they really believe they have the Terminator or just want to believe it is another matter.

He apologised for the failures of the Major years and said they should never be repeated - as trailed.

He mapped out the new policies announced during the conference and which have helped give his leadership a genuine foundation.

And he pressed the right buttons on Europe, the Labour government and defence - particularly dealing with dictators like Saddam Hussein.

But he also offered a caring side - even confirming that the Conservatives do, after all: "believe in society."

But this speech was overwhelmingly about one thing - Iain Duncan Smith.

He desperately needed to draw a line under the past and slap down those out to undermine him.

Saying sorry

And he desperately needed to fill the policy vacuum of the past year and give a route map towards the next election.

But, most importantly, he needed to persuade people he was a leader - indeed, a prime minister-in-waiting.

It could, of course, all backfire. Saying sorry is a double edged sword - too often and it looks like crawling.

Taking on your enemies - as Labour leaders did over Militant and Clause Four - can win you even more friends. But it can also prod more into revolt.

And putting on the body armour of the Terminator can be ridiculed if you are still Captain Mainwaring underneath.


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10 Oct 02 | Politics
07 Oct 02 | Politics
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