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EDITIONS
Friday, 8 November, 2002, 18:01 GMT
Tory dilemma on clause 28
Iain Duncan Smith and wife Betsy
Duncan Smith is desperate to avoid further rows
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is facing another tricky dilemma as he considers his party's stance on clause 28, which bans the promotion of homosexuality by local authority employees.

Mr Duncan Smith is set to end his support for the controversial clause, and is expected to propose a new form of words for the Tory-created legislation.


It has got to protect children from the promotion of alternative lifestyles

Ann Widdecombe

But any change is likely to be resisted by the traditionalist wing of the party, who regard Clause 28 as an important piece of child protection law.

Former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said on Friday that the clause should stay.

"If there is to be any substitute to Section 28 that seeks to fulfil its intention but in a different way, obviously it has got to protect children from the promotion of alternative lifestyles."

David Mellor
David Mellor: Tories heading for third place
But John Bercow, who quit the shadow cabinet to defy his hard line on adoption by unmarried couples, describes the issue as a test of the party's willingness to change.

Labour backbenchers are expected to propose scrapping the clause when Parliament returns next week.

That would trigger a free vote but, as with the adoption issue, Mr Duncan Smith could come under pressure from traditionalists to impose a three-line whip.


The truth is IDS can't hack it now any more than Major could in 1995

David Mellor
Such a move could risk turning the issue into a re-run of the rebellion led by former leadership rivals Kenneth Clarke and Michael Portillo.

Mr Duncan Smith wants the party to unite behind an alternative form of words that is acceptable to all.

Third party threat

Meanwhile, Tory former cabinet minister David Mellor has warned the party faced being overtaken by the Liberal Democrats.

Writing in London's Evening Standard, Mr Mellor said the idea of the Tories becoming the third party in British politics was a "joke no longer".

Mr Mellor compared Mr Duncan Smith's position with former premier John Major.

"The truth is IDS can't hack it now any more than Major could in 1995. No change, no chance," he said.

Recalling Mr Duncan Smith repeatedly voting against Mr Major on Europe, Mr Mellor said: "Loyalty is not a commodity to be lightly wasted on Iain Duncan Smith."

'Thin CV'

Mr Mellor also delivered a damning verdict on the Tory leader's qualifications for the post.

"IDS has the thinnest CV of any major party leader in a generation.

"He was not elected because of any perceived personal distinction but because his set of primary coloured prejudices best matched the opinions of the mainly elderly Tory activists who constituted the electorate.

"No sooner had they elected him than he became a moderniser, advocating a sub-Blairite agenda that is, for the most part, nothing less than a total repudiation of his previous beliefs."

Grassroots support

Tory HQ is desperate to draw a line under this week's leadership crisis debacle, which the Daily Telegraph branded the worst day in the party's history.

Party aides point to a YouGov poll suggesting 66% of Tory members supported Mr Duncan Smith.

Almost two thirds of Tory members polled thought Kenneth Clarke wanted to take over the leadership of the party.

Michael Portillo's actions were also interpreted by a leadership bid by 50% of Tories.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Norman Smith
"There remains no one obvious challenger to Mr Duncan-Smith"

Key stories

Analysis

Background

INTERACTIVE
See also:

07 Nov 02 | Politics
06 Nov 02 | Politics
06 Nov 02 | Politics
06 Nov 02 | Politics

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