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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 10:26 GMT
Portillo stands by IDS attack
Michael Portillo
Mr Portillo says he will never stand for the Tory leadership again
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.

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.

I have said what I had to say and the thing is done
Michael Portillo
Mr Portillo, who insists he will never stand for the leadership again, defended his attack on Mr Duncan Smith.

"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."

Theresa May

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.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith says internal rows do not interest the public
Mrs May, a leading moderniser, had backed Mr Portillo's leadership challenge in the summer of 2001.

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 about that.

"But it was not a matter of looking for support."

'Political correctness'

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".

Spoiled for choice of open goals, they choose to score against each other and not against the government
Lord Tebbit
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," 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 euro-scepticism.

"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."

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