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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
'Ditch Duncan Smith' says 5m donor
Iain Duncan Smith
Coached on how to communicate?
The case for replacing Iain Duncan Smith as Tory leader is "overwhelming", a 5m donor to the Conservatives has said.

Multi-millionaire businessman Stuart Wheeler said the Conservative leader did not come across as a potential prime minister, but Mr Duncan Smith has insisted he is staying in his job.

Tory backbenchers have held the weekly meeting where a confidence vote in their leader would be announced if at least 25 MPs had demanded one.

But that meeting broke up after just six minutes without any announcement of a leadership challenge.

Earlier, Mr Duncan Smith stressed to his shadow cabinet that he intended to lead the party into the next general election.

'Here to stay'

A spokesman for Mr Duncan Smith said: "He said he was aware of the rumours and speculation which has been going on since the party conference.

"He said he had a very clear message for the party and the shadow cabinet: 'I am staying on as leader of the party. I have earned the right and I am going to stay doing that job and lead this party into the general election.'"

The spokesman said the leader's comments had been "extremely well received".

I'm afraid my view is that he should go because, the crucial thing is, he is terribly bad at communicating
Stuart Wheeler on Iain Duncan Smith

At the last election Mr Wheeler's 5m gift to William Hague's Conservatives thrust him into the limelight.

And in the race to succeed Mr Hague, Mr Wheeler said he would not back a Conservative Party led by Mr Duncan Smith's leadership rival Ken Clarke.

On Wednesday, Mr Wheeler, chairman of spread betting company IG Index, said Mr Duncan Smith had done a lot for the Tories by uniting the party over Europe.

But he continued: "He doesn't come over at all as a potential prime minister.

"He comes over as weak."

MPs' duty

Mr Wheeler said Conservative MPs had a duty to start the process of ousting Mr Duncan Smith by gathering the 25 signatures needed to force a vote.

"All one hears is that they all take the view that I have just expressed or virtually all of them," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"That being so, not to be too pompous about it, it is almost their duty to have these 25 letters and get the thing going and that is what I think should happen and very quickly."

Stuart Wheeler
Big donor to the Conservative Party
He added: "I think we should all be extremely grateful to Iain Duncan Smith for what he has done for the party.

"He has done two wonderful things in particular. He has stopped the quarrelling over Europe, I believe, and he has produced some wonderful policies at Blackpool which will make the basis of a manifesto at the next election.

"But in spite of that, I'm afraid my view is that he should go because, the crucial thing is, he is terribly bad at communicating."

'Catastrophe'

Mr Wheeler said he had gained the impression that instead of speaking naturally, the Tory leader had been coached on speaking and how to use his arms during speeches.

Mr Wheeler cast doubt on whether the Tories could regain some of the electoral ground lost in the past two general elections under Mr Duncan Smith.

"That is a catastrophe, really, when Labour is so weak that there is a huge opportunity, with a good person leading, to make a huge difference."

Conservative Party treasurer George Magan said Tory finances were in good order despite Mr Wheeler's words.

"We have had a significant inflow of money to the tune of over 3 million during the past few months," said Mr Magan.

"There is no doubt that the policies announced at the party conference have been approved widely and I am confident that this will be reflected in further fund-raising."

Donor support

Former Tory treasurer Lord Ashcroft told BBC Radio 4's PM programme he would fund the party at the time of the next election and predicted Mr Wheeler would do the same.

"Generally across the donor base I have found they do not want a leadership election at this particular point of time and certainly the activists who are out there on the doorsteps generally do not want a leadership contest at this particular point of time," he said.

"What they do want is for all the squabbling to finish."

Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Sir Philip Mawer is currently examining suggestions that Betsy Duncan Smith did not do enough work to justify the salary she was paid as her husband's diary secretary.

The Conservative leader strongly denies any wrongdoing.

He insists he will be cleared by the inquiry and has already submitted evidence which he says refutes the claims against him.




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