'Put up or shut up' Tory dissidents told

THE Essex politician who led the campaign to make Iain Duncan Smith Conservative Party leader hit out at dissident MPs trying to oust him last night, saying: "Do something about it or back him.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE Essex politician who led the campaign to make Iain Duncan Smith Conservative Party leader hit out at dissident MPs trying to oust him last night, saying: "Do something about it or back him."

Close friend and colleague of Mr Duncan Smith, North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, branded the plotters against the beleaguered leader of being "chocolate soldiers".

He challenged them to either call for a vote of confidence or stop causing trouble.


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But last night Mr Jenkin refused to say whether he thought a confidence vote was inevitable after one backbencher predicted it would be triggered as early as tomorrow morning.

Mr Jenkin, who managed Mr Duncan Smith's leadership campaign two years ago, said Derek Conway MP was "entitled to his opinion" after he unveiled a letter to be sent to Sir Michael Spicer, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, calling for the vote.

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But he stressed that Mr Duncan Smith had been elected by the whole membership of the party, and not just MPs.

"He feels he has got a mandate from the party to lead it into the next election," said Mr Jenkin, shadow defence secretary.

"Nobody should have any delusions that bringing the Conservative Party back from 20% behind in the polls has been extremely difficult.

"I can't believe that peoples' expectations were much higher than where we have got to now."

He added: "There has been an awful lot of inside innuendo and half-truths given to the Press in order to destabilise.

"Are they going to do something about it or are they going to back him? Where are these chocolate soldiers?"

However Mr Conway, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, predicted that the total of 25 letters from Tory MPs required to trigger a confidence vote in Mr Duncan Smith's leadership would be passed by tomorrow morning.

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