Non-one's there, Iain

DEPOSED Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has emerged from a self-imposed silence to lash out at MPs who ousted him in the autumn, and warning that the membership at large would not be swayed by the political agenda of the "metropolitan media.

By Graham Dines

DEPOSED Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith has emerged from a self-imposed silence to lash out at MPs who ousted him in the autumn, and warning that the membership at large would not be swayed by the political agenda of the "metropolitan media."

IDS, who still believes he is more in tune with the core values of party members, says social justice is the way forward for the Conservatives, but

It had been "like shining a pencil torch into a dark void" trying to get the parliamentary party to adopt the cause.


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In an interview with Briefing, the re-launched official journal of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conferences of England & Wales and Scotland, he says the issue is understood far better by ordinary grassroots party members.

He vowed that he would continue to fight for the cause from the backbenches.

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"In terms of the parliamentary party, the challenge was there. I was able to establish the nature of the challenge, but I was not able to get my parliamentary party to embark on that journey. We are going to carry this on. I will win this one way or the other,' he said.

"All politics now needs a dose of reality and the Conservative Party needs desperately to understand the missing bit of the equation which is that social justice should be a Conservative cry.

"I want my colleagues to see the bit they perhaps didn't get, reclaiming the social justice agenda. The whole point is that until the Conservative Party understands this, it will be very difficult for them to connect."

A defiant IDS adds: "I don't regret what I did, how I did it, or why I did it one little bit. I have challenged my party and that was right. I hope others will now go on to pick up that challenge,' he said.

"I hope they don't just reach for the comfort blanket and say all we have to do is go back to the things that are tried and tested for the metropolitan media when that is part of the problem."

Although this outburst is unlikely to go down well with fellow Tory MPs, most are portraying IDS already as the "forgotten leader" whose views are even more irrelevant now than they were when he was in charge.

A NEAT twist on the Government's tuition fees debate has been Ipswich MP Chris Mole's decision to back the plans because they will help raise cash for more student places, fuelling hopes that the town will get its longed-for university.

"Pure fantasy," retorts Ipswich's Tory Parliamentary candidate Paul West, who said it was "not even certain" that top up fees would raise sufficient funds to pay for the administration of the Government's complicated scheme.

"Even the Government predicts that they will only raise about 10% of the shortfall in University funding," says Mr West. "To suggest that it will pay for a new University in Ipswich is pure fantasy."

LABOUR Euro MP for the East of England Richard Howitt proved a good sport when he allowed himself to be photographed standing face-to-face with a chimpanzee at Colchester Zoo. But it was all in a good cause – publicising the European Parliament's overwhelming vote against the hunting of wild animals for their meat.

THE spiralling increase in sexually transmitted infections is causing MPs concern, and Chelmsford West's Simon Burns called on ministers to adopt Tory policy and appoint a public health commissioner.

"The Conservative Party has consistently warned that, unless proper steps were taken, incidents of STIs would continue to rise. Unfortunately, they have not listened – there is not one more genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic than there was in 1997," Mr Burns said in a Commons debate.

"Their failure to act properly means we are now face a burgeoning epidemic, that sexual services are under increasing pressure, and that there are dangerously long waits for treatment."

Mr Burns, an opposition health spokesman, criticised the condition of GUM clinics – 20% were located in portable cabins and refurbishment and extensions were needed in about 80%.

The waiting time for a first appointment in GUM clinics is 12 days for men and 10 days for days women – just four years ago it was 10 days and 5 days. Between 1996 and 2002, levels of primary and secondary infectious syphilis in the UK increased by 933% and levels of latent syphilis by 211%.

Between 1996 and 2001, gonorrhea increased by 87%, chlamydia by 108% and HIV/Aids by 47%.

CRICKET bats will be banned from aircraft cabins starting next month under tough Europe-wide action to make air travel safer. They join a long list of already prohibited items, such as firearms, knives, scissors, fireworks and aerosol spray paint, but under the category of blunt instruments, the European Commission now adds hockey sticks, canoe paddles, and snooker cues, skateboards, fishing rods, and golf clubs to those that could be used in potential terror attacks.

All such items will be consigned to the holds of aircraft under what amounts to the first comprehensive agreed list to emerge since the threat to worldwide air travel after September 2001. A further list of items banned even from aircraft holds includes propane and butane gas, bleach, rat poison, infected blood, all radioactive material and anything corrosive such as vehicle batteries.

All airport authorities in the EU will impose the rules, although they can confiscate any other items which are deemed on the basis of "on the spot local risk assessment" to pose a potential threat.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"No Government department can or should attempt to operate the railways" – Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, announcing in the Commons a review of railways' structure.

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