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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 06:48 GMT 07:48 UK
Portillo attacks 'horrible' Tory conference
Michael Portillo said he does not want to be Tory leader
The Tory conference was the worst that anyone can remember, former leadership contender Michael Portillo has said.

He told the BBC the mood of the Blackpool meeting was horrible and dejected, but that he did not think Iain Duncan Smith would be replaced.

Party chairman Teresa May told Question Time that Mr Duncan Smith would lead the party in the next election.

But it is still unclear whether his performance was good enough to stop moves for a leadership contest.

Morale crisis

Mr Portillo, who was a cabinet member under John Major, said some party members had sought to blame "modernisers" for plotting against Iain Duncan Smith.

"Plenty of pointing, outstretched arms and even the occasional come-and-have-a-go-if-you-think-you're-hard-enough glare."

But he claimed that as the week unfolded it was difficult to find anybody who was not involved in a plot.

He said there was a crisis of morale among Tory MPs, but he did not think there would be a change of leader and that he did not want the job.

David MacLean, the chief whip in charge of party discipline, is preparing to call in those suspected of plotting against the leader and challenge them to come up with the 25 names needed to trigger a contest.

It seems Iain Duncan Smith still has much more to do to end the questions over his leadership, says BBC political correspondent Carole Walker.

Savage attack

Mr Portillo's criticisms come after Iain Duncan Smith used his conference speech to fight back against his critics within the party.

The Tories are about as relevant as the BNP and no speech will change that.
Barry Lowry, London UK

He also launched a savage attack on the prime minister.

Speaking from a podium in the middle of party members in the Blackpool ballroom, he told his doubters: "Don't work for Tony Blair - get on board".

And after last year telling the Tories not to underestimate "the quiet man", he said: "The quiet man is here to stay and he's turning up the volume."

He received 18 standing ovations during his address, plus a two minute welcome and a full eight minutes of applause at the end - the longest of any party leader over the recent conference season.

Mr Duncan Smith - who unveiled "the IDS card" setting out his beliefs and values - moved to face down his critics after a week of headlines about plots against him.

Michael Portillo, former Tory leadership contender
"It was the worst conference anyone could remember"

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