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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October, 2003, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Tory leader brushes off 'malcontents'
Iain Duncan Smith
Man on a mission: Duncan Smith giving his conference address
Iain Duncan Smith has insisted he has every intention of leading the Tories to the next general election, dismissing challenges to his position as just "froth and nonsense" that would blow away.

He brushed aside claims by former leadership contender Michael Portillo that the Tory conference was the worst that anyone could remember.

While he accepted there were "some malcontents" plotting against his leadership, Mr Duncan Smith said these would be dealt with by his chief whip David Maclean.

I'm going to take this party to the general election and I believe we have a very, very serious chance... of winning that election
Iain Duncan Smith

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the Tories had had a good week at their annual gathering in Bournemouth and the party had shown itself to be a real alternative to Labour.

The Tory leader also stood by his conference speech attack on the prime minister that he lied over his role in the public naming of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

Mr Duncan Smith said he believed Tony Blair "at any stage could have stopped" the outing of Dr Kelly's identity into the public domain.

Plotting continues?

The Tory leader was speaking after Mr Portillo told the BBC the mood of the Blackpool conference was horrible and dejected, but that he did not think Mr Duncan Smith would be replaced.

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

But Mr Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "That's Michael Portillo's view - I don't know who he met, but there were 3,500 to 4,000 delegates there and I met a great deal more.

"The mood of the delegates was very good indeed."

'Real battle'

Mr Duncan Smith said there was no chance of him stepping aside, stressing: "I'm going to take this party to the general election and I believe we have a very, very serious chance - and will have in 18 months - of winning that election.

"We are up against a government that has essentially lied over all the things that it said it would do and then failed to deliver."

There are plenty of good reasons why conferences have turned in to these pointless exercises

He accused the government of introducing 60 tax rises, failing to reform public services and wasting money.

He said the "real battle" was between himself and Tony Blair, claiming he was "not interested in anything else".

"The froth and the nonsense will blow away," he said.

But he felt "personally... very angry" about the way Dr Kelly was treated and for the government's "lies" about top up fees and taxes, he said.

While he acknowledged that Dr Kelly "was responsible for his own sad and tragic death", he added: "What you don't do is grab a civil servant and throw him out as if he was some other goods and chattel."

Mr Duncan Smith insisted he was not pre-empting Lord Hutton's report into Dr Kelly's death, but argued that retrospective minutes of key meetings in July, where the strategy of naming the scientist was decided, showed "the prime minister lied and was at these meetings".

'Joke'

Mr Duncan Smith also defended a reference to Lib Dems leader Charles Kennedy and drink during his speech as just humour.

"The reality is that this was a joke and as far as I am concerned, jokes are meant to be funny," he said.

During his conference speech, Mr Duncan Smith told his doubters: "Don't work for Tony Blair - get on board".

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.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"Iain Duncan Smith rated the Conservative party conference a success"


Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith
"My leadership, as far as I'm concerned, is absolutely fine"



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