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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 March 2006, 08:51 GMT
First 100 Days: Iain Duncan Smith

The jury was still out after 100 days of Iain Duncan Smith in the Conservative hot seat.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH
Iain Duncan Smith
Elected leader: July 2001
Age when elected: 48
Defeated rivals: Michael Portillo, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Ancram, David Davis

The new Tory leader had "not yet laid a glove on Tony Blair but at least he has avoided falling over his own feet," wrote Anthony Howard in The Times.

Given the party's recent history, Mr Howard added, this was not a negligible achievement.

Mr Duncan Smith had taken over a party at a low ebb, reeling from its second resounding general election defeat in a row.

He was the first Tory leader to be elected by a ballot of the entire party membership - but he had not been the first choice of the party's MPs, only squeezing into the final voting round by a single vote.

And he had received a less than enthusiastic welcome from sections of the press - his early, faltering performances at prime minister's questions, only adding, in the eyes of the sketch writers and commentators, to the impression of a man out of his depth. There was much mockery, in particular, of the frog in Mr Duncan Smith's throat.

Compassionate

Mr Duncan Smith began by promoting a more compassionate brand of Conservatism.

The frog in his throat has a long way to go before it can hope to turn into prince
Michael Gove and Tom Baldwin, The Times

He used his first 100 days to switch the party's focus from Europe and keeping the pound - issues which had just lost the party a second election in a row - to the public services.

Shadow cabinet ministers were banned from mentioning the euro and dispatched abroad instead - to Sweden, Turkey or Spain - on fact-finding missions, to see how other European countries ran their public services.

He launched the party's biggest policy review since the 1970s.

He also attempted to distance himself from his "hard right" past, ordering three MPs to resign from the Monday Club and saying Thatcherism belonged to "the past".

His efforts at moving the party towards the centre ground were having little impact on the polls.

But there were a few flickering signs at the 100 day mark that he was starting to win Fleet Street over.

'Small victories'

Michael Gove, now a Tory frontbencher and key David Cameron ally, and Tom Baldwin, in The Times, said Mr Duncan Smith had been "steady under fire" and his shadow cabinet appointments - derided by modernisers for bringing in eurosceptics and right wingers - were starting to bear fruit.

But they also said he had to be more aggressive in pursuit of a new, more inclusive image for the party during the next phase of his leadership - and his "starchy" image and speech patterns needed work.

"The frog in his throat has a long way to go before it can hope to turn into prince," the pair's piece concluded.

Julia Hartley-Brewer, in The Sunday Express, said Mr Duncan Smith had "racked up a few small victories - the best the Tories could hope for in the current climate".

But any hopes Mr Duncan Smith might have had of building on the modest progress of his first 100 days were dashed by a piece in the Observer.

The knives were out for Mr Duncan Smith as "senior figures" on the left of the party told the newspaper he was still "on probation" as leader, and warning him - in a sign of the catastrophic rows to come - against a lurch to the right, the newspaper reported.

What happened next: Mr Duncan Smith's spell as Conservative leader suffered from apparently constant sniping from within the party, as he failed to make much impact in opinion polls. He memorably urged the party never to underestimate "the quiet man", and to "unite or die". In the end he quit in November 2003 after losing a vote of confidence.



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