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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 07:24 GMT
Tory leader's education under scrutiny
Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith says 2003 is the year to "collect"
Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith is facing claims his account of his education is misleading - just as he promised his party would "step up a gear" next year.

BBC Two's Newsnight said the Tory leader did not go to the Universita di Perugia in Italy as claimed.

Instead, he went to a respected language college in the same city which did not grant degrees, said the programme.

The Tories have dismissed the report as "trivia" while Mr Duncan Smith himself rallied backbenchers, saying his party would start to collect on its hard work in the year ahead.

'Difficult times'

A Guardian/ICM poll this week suggested the Tories had made no headway against Labour despite the furore over conman Peter Foster.

Tory officials say that survey was skewed because not enough people from social groups A and B were questioned.

That has provoked fresh press speculation about how long Mr Duncan Smith can last at the Tory helm.

Perugia
The Tories say people are not interested in their leader's Italian classes in Perugia
He was upbeat, however, as he addressed the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers on Wednesday evening.

"I am not going to pretend that the last year has always been easy," he said in a speech greeted by supportive banging on the tables.

"But now is the time to show the steady nerves and steely determination that has made us the most successful democratic force in history."

Mr Duncan Smith argued 2002 had been a year for laying the foundations for his party's recovery.

"2003 will be the year when we step up a gear and start to collect," he said.

"I will be campaigning hard on our positive plans for education reform and exposing the government's failure in this vital area."

CV questions

The government was now "falling apart", he said, and was spending more than ever and increasing taxes but failing to reform public services.

"Everyone else is paying the price," added Mr Duncan Smith.

Meanwhile, Newsnight has raised questions about details on the Tory leader's curriculum vitae and entry in Who's Who.

Both say he was educated at the Universita di Perugia in Italy and Dunchurch College of Management.

The programme says he in fact went to the Unversita per Stranieri, which is also in Perugia.

That is a respected language school which did not award degrees when Mr Duncan Smith was there in 1973, said Newsnight.

It was founded in 1921, while the Universita di Perugia dates back to 1308.

The programme also said Dunchurch used to be the staff college for GEC Marconi, the firm which employed Mr Duncan Smith during the 1980s.

Mr Duncan Smith's office told the programme that he had not obtained any qualifications there, but had completed six separate courses lasting a few days each.

'Trivia'

Former Dunchurch tutor John Garside said he was puzzled but flattered by the CV entries.

"What we did was offer short courses ... it was not a continuous form of education by any means," said Mr Garside.

Conservative Central Office brushed off the report in a statement.

It said: "We are surprised that Newsnight is hyping such trivia.

"Even the most dedicated political anorak will find it hard to get excited about where Iain Duncan Smith took his Italian classes 30 years ago."

See also:

17 Dec 02 | Politics
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