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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 11:38 GMT
Press verdict on Duncan Smith
Newspapers coverage of Tory troubles
The verdict did not make good reading for 'IDS'
Iain Duncan Smith has faced near universal criticism from the morning newspapers over his "unite or die" rallying call to MPs.

The Tory leader's decision to put his leadership on the line by challenging disloyal MPs to get behind him - or risk destroying the party - was attacked by leader writers across the political spectrum.


Yesterday was the most desperate day in the history of the Conservative Party

The Daily Telegraph
Even the traditionally loyal Daily Telegraph appeared to question the wisdom of Mr Duncan Smith's statement, while endorsing his central message that the party must "unite or die".

"Yesterday was the most desperate day in the history of the Conservative Party," the newspaper warned.

In a mock epitaph for the Conservative Party, it predicted Mr Duncan Smith's resignation within a "few weeks", followed by the party splitting in two and another Labour election victory.

"And so came to an end the party of Wellington, Peel, Didsraeli, Salisbury, Churchill and Thatcher," the newspaper said.

It urged Tory MPs to get behind their leader or face "anarchy and fratricide".

'Torture'

In The Times, Peter Riddell said Mr Duncan Smith's message was that of a weak, not a strong leader.


The more ringing his declarations that he will never stand for the leadership, the more certain we can be of his treachery

The Mail on Michael Portillo
The Guardian agreed, but concluded there was no alternative candidate for leader around whom the party could unite.

The paper said: "It's as though the gods of politics have devised a particularly excruciating form of torture" for the Conservatives.

"Not content with saddling the party with the worst leader in its history, they have also contrived to ensure that it is in the Tories' interest for him to remain in office."

Portillo attacked

The Daily Mail dubbed the Tories the "hari-kari party" and attacked the "vain, self-obsessed men" conspiring to "destroy a once great movement".

Wednesday's Daily Mail
The Mail reserves special scorn for Mr Portillo
The paper said Mr Duncan Smith had been "unwise" to issue his "unite or die" message, but it reserved special scorn for Michael Portillo.

"The more ringing his declarations that he will never stand for the leadership, the more certain we can be of his treachery," the newspaper said.

If the Tories did not shape up they risked becoming the third party in British politics, the paper's editorial added.

'Backstabbing'

The Daily Express calls Mr Duncan Smith weak and ineffectual, and describes the party as "a farce to be reckoned with".

The Daily Mirror said Mr Duncan Smith had written his own epitaph.

"The only question now is whether the former Guards officer will find the courage to jump before he is pushed."

Only The Sun got fully behind Mr Duncan Smith, urging "backstabbing" Tories to bury their differences and get on with attacking the government.

But its claim that Mr Duncan Smith is "entitled to lead the party into next May's key local elections" hardly qualifies as a ringing endorsement.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Fireworks are erupting around their own party leader"

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06 Nov 02 | Politics

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