Tory leader defies his critics
By GRAHAM DINESPolitical EditorCONSERVATIVE leader Iain Duncan Smith defied his critics inside and outside of the party and told thousands of cheering conference delegates yesterday that the Tories had to turf out Tony Blair's government and create a society “that respects everyone.
By GRAHAM DINES
CONSERVATIVE leader Iain Duncan Smith defied his critics inside and outside of the party and told thousands of cheering conference delegates yesterday that the Tories had to turf out Tony Blair's government and create a society “that respects everyone.”
In what was seen as a make-or-break speech to head off growing doubts about his leadership, Mr Duncan Speech received a rapturous reception, which his advisers firmly believe, will silence his opponents.
Speaking from the middle of the Blackpool Wintergardens hall in a deliberate move to get closer to the men and women who elected him in 2001, the Conservative leader said: “The quiet man is here to stay and he's turning up the volume.”
After a week of talk of revolution against his leadership which has masked key Tory policy announcements, IDS told would-be plotters to stop doing Tony Blair's work for him.
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“Get on board - or get out of our way, for we have work to do.”
The speech was punctuated by prolonged applause, conference delegates sending a message to the merchants of doom to stick with IDS at all costs. It's a signal that disaffected MPs, said to be planning a leadership challenge, will have to consider very carefully in the next week or so.
He launched a savage attack on Government policy and personalities. Tony Blair had promised to be “whiter than white” but IDS asked his audience. “Do you remember, Ecclestone, Geoffrey Robinson, Mandelson's home loan, the Hinduja affair, Mandelson again?
“Scandal after scandal, scandals that revealed this government's dark side. But these were just a curtain-raiser for this Prime Minister's blackest act.
“This government used Dr David Kelly as a pawn in its battle with the BBC. His death was foremost a tragedy for those who loved him. But it shamed out country.
“It shamed our whole political system. Immediately after Dr Kelly's death, Tony Blair said he'd had nothing to do with his public naming.
“That was a lie. Tony Blair chaired the meetings that made that fatal decision. He is responsible. He should do the decent thing and he should resign.
“But, of course, he won't. He won't do the decent thing, He never does.”
But IDS warned the Prime Minister he would soon “feel the grip of the British people dragging you from office.”
He didn't just reserve his fire for Labour. “Gordon Brown is the biggest tax raiser in British history, But Charlie Kennedy wants to raise them even further - except on wines and spirits, of course.
“The Lib Dems want a local income tax, a regional income tax, and a new 50% tax band. They pretend to be reasonable but they're not.
“The don't want to give convicted paedophiles, rapists and murderers tough sentences, they want to give them the right to vote. Utter madness.”
He repeated the core themes of the conference on health, tuition fees, law-and-order, and asylum and pledged to campaign all over Britain for a referendum on the proposed European constitution.
“I will fight with all my strength to defend the British people's right to govern themselves. We will fight at next year's vital European elections. We will fight in Parliament. We will fight at the general election.”
He said the Tories wanted individuals and families to fulfil their potential and the party trusted them to build a society that respects everyone. The Conservatives had to win the election on behalf of the “hard-working, law-abiding people of Britain.”
But he said the Tories had to be there for the disadvantaged as well. "We have a special duty of care for the most vulnerable people in our society, children, pensioners and the poor.
“Everyone in Britain deserves a fair deal. We must be on their side. Our mission, our duty, is to bring them hope.”