[A-List] UK state: political realignment
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Thu Dec 19 02:06:22 MST 2002
This week the Guardian has been frantically playing up the continuing crisis
in the Conservative Party, no doubt because it's easy filler material and it
takes the heat off Tony and Cherie as they repair the damage caused by their
deeply suspect property dealings. Maybe Geoffrey Robinson knows a few things
about that too. However the virus has spread, as other papers are now
focusing on the troubles of Iain Duncan Smith, whose tenure may look a
little shaky but, thanks to the reforms of William Hague, is actually more
secure because the leadership is elected by the rank and file, whose punk
Thatcherite proclivities are too strong for them to go for heavy hitters
like Clarke and Portillo. Hence my earlier musings about a new party.
Whatever, we'll be staying tuned on this one, especially since we're now
getting smears about the credibility and personal integrity of Smith, very
much in the manner of Colin Wallace and Geoffrey Robinson. So much for the
season of goodwill.
Tory leader 'made misleading claim about his education'
By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor
19 December 2002
Iain Duncan Smith was facing fresh questions about his past last night as he
tried to relaunch his leadership of the Conservative Party.
The Tory leader moved to quash fresh dissent among his backbenchers by
sending them off for the Christmas break with a pledge to "step up a gear"
and take a tougher approach to opposition in the New Year. Mr Duncan Smith
in effect called on MPs at the powerful 1922 Committee to give him more time
to make inroads into Labour's lead.
However, his personal reputation came under a new attack when BBC's
Newsnight claimed he had made misleading statements about his education. Mr
Duncan Smith's office admitted to the programme that he had not attended the
University of Perugia, as claimed in his Who's Who entry. Instead of
attending the medieval university, he attended a language school founded in
1928. Newsnight also threw doubt on Mr Duncan Smith's claim to have been
"educated at Dunchurch College of Management".
MPs from both the left and the right of the party have in recent days
expressed dismay at the latest ICM opinion poll putting the Tories on 27 per
cent, just four points ahead of the Liberal Democrats. Labour is on 41 per
In his speech to the 1922 committee, Mr Duncan Smith said he was "not going
to pretend that the last year has always been easy". He added: "But now is
the time to show the steady nerves and steely determination that has made us
the most successful democratic force in history."
The first indication of the new approach came at the final Prime Minister's
questions of the year, with short, sharp questions about Labour's "broken
promises" on pensions, road congestion and truancy.
In a highly-charged atmosphere, backbenchers on both sides cheered and
jeered Tony Blair and Mr Duncan Smith in turn. But Mr Duncan Smith won the
most applause when he replied to Mr Blair's responses: "You're not juggling
balls, you're talking them." The remark was a reference to Mrs Blair's
televised apology last week over the "Cheriegate" affair.
Politicians were cheered by the performance but several Shadow Cabinet
members expressed their continuing unease at the opinion polls.
MPs have dismissed efforts by Mr Duncan Smith to insist that the party
expects gains of only 30 seats in May's local elections. They will instead
seize on the share of the national vote in the polls. If it has not gone up
significantly, some are prepared to launch a challenge.
Some on the right believe that Michael Howard, the shadow Chancellor, offers
the best hope of beating Kenneth Clarke if a leadership challenge is
launched after local elections.
Newsnight claimed that the Tory party website stated that Mr Duncan Smith
had been educated at Dunchurch College of Management. In fact, Dunchurch was
the former staff college for GEC Marconi, for whom he worked in the 1980s.
Mr Duncan Smith's office told Newsnight that he did not get any
qualifications at the college but that he completed six separate courses,
each lasting a few days.
Fighting talk from Duncan Smith as whispers persist
Nicholas Watt, political correspondent
Thursday December 19, 2002
Iain Duncan Smith last night launched a fightback in the face of a fresh
whispering campaign against his leadership, promising to "step up a gear"
and intensify his attacks on the government in the new year.
Rattled by this week's Guardian/ICM poll, which showed that support for the
Conservatives has slumped to 27%, Mr Duncan Smith told Tory backbenchers
that he would adopt a robust approach highlighting the government's
But he faced a blow last night when the BBC 2's Newsnight reported that he
has been less than frank about his career. The programme reported that the
Tory leader issued two misleading statements on his CV:
· He falsely claimed that he attended the University of Perugia in Italy in
In fact, he attended the Universita per Stranieri - or University for
Foreigners - which is also in Perugia.
A respected language school, this is a separate institution to the medieval
Universita di Perugia, which was founded by the Pope in 1308.
Mr Duncan Smith's office told Newsnight that he did not achieve any
qualifications in Perugia or finish his exams.
· His claim that he was "educated at Dunchurch College of Management" failed
to paint a full picture.
Dunchurch was the former staff college for GEC Marconi, for which Mr Duncan
Smith worked in the 1980s.
He completed six courses lasting a few days each, adding up to about a month
The disclosures by Newsnight are likely to be laughed off by the Tories, who
will recall that John Major was highly sensitive about his poor academic
But they will not help the Tory leader as he attempts to portray Tony Blair
Mr Duncan Smith gave a taste of his tough new approach yesterday when he
accused the prime minister of breaking promises and talking "balls" over
pledges to cut road congestion, help occupational pensions and cut truancy.
Turning round Cherie Blair's statement on the prime minister, he said:
"You're not juggling balls, you're talking them."
Hours later the Tory leader explained his new tactics to a meeting of the
backbench 1922 committee.
"I am not going to pretend that that the last year has always been easy,"
said Mr Duncan Smith.
"But now it is time to show the steady nerves and steely determination that
has made us the most successful democratic force in history - 2002 was the
year we laid the foundations for our recovery; 2003 will be the year when we
step up a gear."
Mr Duncan Smith's aides said last night that the change in gear marked the
next logical step in his leadership.
They said that Mr Duncan Smith could not have been more robust in the past
year because the prime minister was basking in the glow of his second
landslide election victory.
But his speech indicates the depth of unease in Mr Duncan Smith's office
after his disastrous showing in the Guardian /ICM poll.
Senior Tories believe that Mr Duncan Smith will struggle to survive beyond
the English local elections in May if he fails to achieve a breakthrough
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