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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 15:54 GMT
Q&A: Tory leader's ultimatum
Iain Duncan Smith has told the Tories to "unite or die", at the end of a very difficult few weeks for the party. BBC political editor Andrew Marr assesses how much trouble the party is in.

What did you make of Mr Duncan Smith's statement?

That was an extraordinary event. Lots of people thought he was about to resign. When Iain Duncan Smith arrived you could have cut the atmosphere with a pretty blunt butter knife.

He made his statement and it seemed as if he was moving towards some kind of open back me or sack me challenge. But it didn't quite come.

He finished it by saying - we must either unite or die. The problem is that an awful lot of people watching him assumed that the answer would be die rather than unite, the way the Conservative Party is going at the moment.

There is a mood of extraordinary hysteria around. The problem is that he hasn't shown an obvious way through.

What is his solution to the crisis?

Well, is he challenging his critics to come and face him openly and provoke another leadership contest? It sounded a bit like that.

Is he asking the Conservative Party in the country, who after all democratically voted for him, to come and save him? Well, short of arriving here with staves and bull hooks from the countryside, it's difficult to see how they could.

What will happen now?

You can do two things normally in these circumstances: you either resign or you pick a fight.

Now in a sense he has picked a fight. He has said that some of the eight people who voted against him weren't voting on the basis of the issue of adoption, but they were voting against him as an attempt to sabotage his leadership.

So he was accusing, we must assume, people like Michael Portillo and Kenneth Clarke and John Bercow of hypocrisy and treachery.

I think a lot of people will want a brisk and fast reaction from people like that. Whether they'll get that is another question entirely. Kenneth Clarke in particular, has gone to ground very, very noticeably over the last few weeks.

It's hard to see how this situation makes things a great deal better - at least in the short-term.

Will Mr Duncan Smith survive?

Well he needs grit. You know he's got that army background - by goodness he needs it now.

He is determined. He is a fighter. He is a tough man but he may simply be in an impossible situation.

Where did it go wrong for him?

He has had a completely miserable time in the last few weeks. He had quite a good conference that produced some interesting policies and generally got a pretty good press for that.

But since then, it has been drip, drip, drip - the knives have been out. There has been constant plotting and murmuring in Westminster and that is extraordinarily destabilising. It saps energy. And in a sense the problem is that there isn't a core of authority in the middle of the Conservative Party at the moment.

People aren't frightened of Iain Duncan Smith. Not enough people in the Conservative Party seem to respect him as perhaps he deserves to be respected.

What about the press conference that was cancelled?

The morning started fairly bizarrely because everybody had been assured that he would have something to say at a press conference about right to buy on a completely different subject.

And so everybody turned up and then right at the last minute it was cancelled. So late that junior shadow ministers didn't realise it had been cancelled and were left scurrying off trying to avoid the cameras. So that wasn't a terribly good way to start the day.


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05 Nov 02 | Politics

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