Former Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Portillo says he
does not regret attacking the Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith - despite provoking a fierce row within his party.
Mr Portillo says he will never stand for the Tory leadership again
He says he felt strongly at the sacking of two "modernisers" at party headquarters, which he said was unjustified.
The former leadership challenger would not reject suggestions that Mr Duncan Smith's reign was
entering its "final months".
"You just wouldn't - no, you would expect me to comment on that - but on the
other hand you know I'm not going to," he said.
Mr Portillo, who insists he will never stand for the leadership again, defended his attack on Mr Duncan Smith.
I have said what I had to say and
the thing is done
"I don't regret it. I think there were things to be said. I wouldn't repeat
it," he told BBC1's This Week political programme.
"I'm not going to go down that line again. I have said what I had to say and
the thing is done."
The Kensington and Chelsea MP spoke out following the departure of the party's chief executive Mark MacGregor and director of policy Rick Nye, which Mr Portillo says has prompted resignation threats from members of the party's board.
Their exit has been seen as a clear-out of modernisers at Tory HQ.
Mr Portillo said it made party chairman Theresa May's position untenable after it appeared she had not been consulted.
Mrs May, a leading moderniser, had backed Mr Portillo's leadership challenge in the summer of 2001.
Duncan Smith says internal rows do not interest the public
But Mr Portillo denied his attack on Mr Duncan Smith had been a call to arms.
"I think that is a misinterpretation of what it was about," said Mr Portillo.
"It was not about support. It was not about factions.
"It is about the fundamental questions that we have been debating here - how
does a party align itself? What are the best strategies to be followed? It was
"But it was not a matter of looking for support."
Mr Portillo made his comments after party elder statesman Lord Tebbit warned that Tory voters could be driven into the hands of the far right by the "cults" of modernisers and Europhiles.
The former cabinet minister and party chairman accused people like Mr Portillo of being
"prisoners of political correctness still clinging to that permissive claptrap
from the swinging 60s".
The peer, whose seat was inherited by Mr Duncan Smith, claimed party activists had had a "bellyful of stupid squabbling".
Spoiled for choice of open goals, they choose to score
against each other and not against the government
"Spoiled for choice of open goals, they choose to score
against each other and not against the government," he told a Westminster lunch.
On the Tory leader's decision to sack Mr MacGregor, the peer said: "This time it seems all about the leader's right
to sack a man who in my judgment should never have been appointed.
"Of course, Iain Duncan Smith is not without fault - but at the heart of the party's problem is the determination of the euro-fanatics' rump to get rid of any leader, Thatcher, Hague or Iain Duncan Smith, who shows any sign of
"Extraordinarily, both groups warn of the dangers of the Tories becoming a
self-obsessed clique unappealing to the mass of voters. One of those who made
this case was Michael Portillo.
"In nasty Thatcherite days, his majority was 18,000 at Enfield. He crawled
back in another seat when he lost that one."