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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 13:42 GMT
View from the grassroots
Half-timbered houses in Stratford
Many Tories in Stratford are 'disappointed' by confidence vote
Iain Duncan Smith seized the Tory crown in 2001 with the overwhelming support of Conservative party members. But what do they think now as Tory MPs vote to decide whether he should be removed as leader?

In Stratford-on-Avon, constituency of John Maples, widely believed to be one of the "plotters" behind demands for a vote of confidence in Mr Duncan Smith, the mood is muted.

Les Topham, chairman of Stratford's Conservative constituency association, says he wants the Tory leader to stay.

We voted for him as members and I think we should remove him and not 25 members of Parliament
Les Topham
Stratford's Conservative constituency association

"There is nobody else to replace him. He's not been given a chance," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It will cause a lot of disruption to the party if we just remove him and I believe he should stay.

"We voted for him as members and I think it should be up to us to remove him - not 25 members of parliament."

His despondency was echoed among other members the constituency association.

'Bad timing'

One man says: "The damage is terrible - I am absolutely amazed at the Conservative Party doing this, but they like this - they are arguing all the time against themselves."

Another Tory chimed in: "If there is a banana skin anywhere within five miles, we will find it and slip on the damn thing.

"If there's a problem, we'll find it."

The policies are terrific, but as everybody says, it's not the message - it's the messenger unfortunately
Chris Mills
Management, Stratford's Conservative constituency association

A female party member added: "The timing is extremely bad - too close to the election."

As the group of party members have lunch, the news playing in the background reveals that 25 MPs have put their names forward asking for a vote of confidence.

'Disgusted'

One man says: "I'm very disappointed and I only hope that my member of parliament isn't one of the 25."

Another agrees: "I'm disgusted with them - absolutely disgusted. I think Iain Duncan Smith should be given a good chance and I think people like that should be kicked out of the Tory party, frankly."

John Maples
Mr Maples was widely tipped as a 'plotter'
But the mood of the group lightens in tone when they realise Mr Duncan Smith will be fighting the confidence vote.

One said: "I'm glad to hear that. He's at least got some bottle. He'll get my bloody vote anyway."

Asked if he should go quietly, the response was: "No, certainly not.

"I think he should stick his ground and see what we, who put him there, have to say."

'Bow out gracefully'

This pro-Duncan Smith support comes in stark contrast to a ballot by the constituency management only two weeks ago, which narrowly supported a change of leadership by six votes to five.

One of the group, Chris Mills said: "It's not before time. We should have had this, probably, six to nine months ago and it's not too late.

"I think we have got another two years to go before the election. The policies are terrific, but as everybody says, it's not the message - it's the messenger unfortunately.

"I think he should bow out gracefully."

Ken Clarke?

Later Les Topham considers the alternatives to Iain Duncan Smith.

"Michael Howard's a very nice bloke - whether he's good enough to be a leader or not, I don't know. To my mind he's yesterday's man.

"I see nobody else who can do better."

This leaves his colleagues to reach no real conclusion about who could possibly replace the Tory leader.

One says he still believes Mr Duncan Smith can win the vote.

Another says: "I don't like Kenneth Clarke. We'd be in Europe tomorrow. He's scruffy and arrogant."

But a third stresses: "I cannot think of anybody suitable," leaving his pal to comment: "I second that - I really do."




WATCH AND LISTEN
Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith
"This is the only way of settling it once and for all"



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