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EDITIONS
Monday, 11 November, 2002, 09:13 GMT
Tory leader 'still to prove himself'
Iain Duncan Smith and his wife, Betsy, at an education centre in Birmingham
Duncan Smith: Party needs to sell its policies
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith may have less than a year to prove he is up to the job, according to a Tory MP.

In a blow to Mr Duncan Smith's attempts to draw a line under talk of Tory plotting, MP Nigel Waterson has said no leader can expect to stay in the job automatically for a whole Parliament.


I don't think in this day and age that any leader can expect necessarily to stay in that role for the whole of a Parliament

Nigel Waterson MP
The Eastbourne MP told BBC One's On The Record programme that Mr Duncan Smith's performances had improved and next May's local elections might be a time to "review things".

The comments came after Mr Duncan Smith said there was no prospect of a challenge for the Conservative leadership ahead of the next general election.

'Stumbles'

Mr Waterson was a Tory trade and industry spokesman until July this year and stuck to the party line in the adoption vote.

He told On The Record: "I don't think in this day and age that any leader can expect necessarily to stay in that role for the whole of a Parliament if progress is not being made.

"I think it's far too early to be talking about any of this, but half way through this Parliament, which coincides to some extent with the May elections, local and other elections, would be a good time to review things."

Nigel Waterson
Nigel Waterson supported Michael Portillo's leadership campaign
Mr Waterson said the whole party, including its leader, recognised it had to do better.

"He has got to do better personally and I think he has been improved, particularly at prime ministers questions, we all have to do better as a party, we've got to get off this plateau in the low 30s of the opinion polls.

The MP continued: "I think there have been a couple of stumbles recently, which although blown up out of proportion, I think just remind us that you know he has some way to go before he's battling Tony Blair on equal terms."

Asked earlier about what he could do if there was a leadership challenge, Mr Duncan Smith said: "It is not going to happen because my colleagues actually accept the fact that what we have got to do is get on to win the next election.

He told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost his "unite or die" warning to his party had worked.

Speaking after a turbulent week, he insisted the Tories had a "fantastic opportunity" to take on the government and put forward a viable alternative.

Eight Tory MPs defied a three-line whip and voted in favour of allowing adoption by unmarried couples.

Providing an alternative

Mr Duncan Smith said the three-line whip was not a mistake and those MPs who did not agree with the party stance were told they could stay away.

But there was "no temptation" to remove the whip from the eight MPs who had cast rebel votes.

Kenneth Clarke
Ken Clarke has said the party's problems are 'self-induced'
The Tory leader said the public were just not interested in the "who did what to whom of Westminster politics".

The Conservatives needed to come together so the media did not focus on their internal rows but on the government's failures, he argued.

Before revelations about former Tory Prime Minister John Major's affair with Edwina Currie, the party had narrowed the gap in the opinion polls to five points, he argued.

"It will only change if the British people look at us and say: 'There is a party that believes in itself, that has a clear sense of an alternative.'"

Grass roots backing

Voters would welcome the prospect of lower taxes, better health treatment and education and a new line on law and order issues, he said.

A survey by BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Saturday suggested Mr Duncan Smith's dramatic statement succeeded in gaining grass roots party backing.

More than half of the party's constituency chairmen questioned by Today thought Tory MPs were to blame for the current leadership crisis.

The majority of the 103 chairmen who responded to the survey said they believed Mr Duncan Smith would lead them into the next election.


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