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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 14:06 GMT
Hezza's plotting again
Former Tory deputy leader Michael Heseltine
Heseltine has always backed Ken Clarke

So Michael Heseltine has put his assassin's cloak back on.

The man who did his best to kill off Margaret Thatcher - and lost his chance of taking over from her as a result - then sniped at William Hague has now got his best carving knives out for Iain Duncan Smith.

The fact that his latest suggestions have been met with a mixture of derision and laughter in Tory central office, and elsewhere, says as much about his current standing in the party as it does the merits of his plot.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith dismissed attack
According to Lord Heseltine, grassroots Tories are a bunch of Eurosceptic old buffers who should be ignored.

The fact that they selected Mr Duncan Smith to lead them in the first place only proves that they don't know what they are doing and should never again be trusted to make such a decision.

Essentially then, democracy is all well and good as long as the people don't get their hands on it.

Second leader

That should go down well in the shires - the few places the Tories still have some MPs.

Instead, according to the man dubbed Tarzan, Tory MPs should get together and elect a second leader in the shape of pro-European old buffer Ken Clarke with fellow failed leadership contender Michael Portillo as his deputy.

Tory backbencher Kenneth Clarke
Clarke is not everyone's favourite
It is the same old Clarke-Portillo plot which has been doing the rounds virtually since the day they lost to IDS, simply dressed up in some more eccentric clothes.

It's not even the first time Mr Heseltine has suggested it.

And, by any reckoning, there are some pretty massive flaws in his scheme.

First it assumes the Tory MPs could ever get themselves together enough to agree on a proper plot of any description.

United Tories

Then it ignores the fact that, even if they could plan a coup, they would agree to back Mr Clarke - a man a sizeable proportion of them hate with a vengeance.

Then it says nothing about how the successors would handle a grassroots party which had, in effect, been told it was not just irrelevant but an embarrassment.

And finally, it fails to address the problem of having a party with two leaders, one heading the grassroots old buffers and the other representing the, presumably, responsible and united Tory backbenchers.

Lord Heseltine must believe that, if the MPs did elect the so-called dream ticket, Mr Duncan Smith would quit in disgust. And who, frankly, would blame him.

His comments do, however, underline a couple of facts.

Big beast

They show just how desperate one section of the Tory party is as it stares at a possible third election defeat.

They also echo the belief by a large number of Tories that, maybe they might stand a better chance of victory under Mr Clarke. They just can't see a way, beyond IDS quitting voluntarily, of getting there.

But they also show the danger for former "big beasts" wandering back into the jungle... they run the risk of being depicted as creatures lost in the wilderness howling at the moon.

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See also:

09 Dec 02 | Politics
11 Nov 02 | Politics
13 Sep 01 | Politics
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