Last week they buried IDS, now they want his nibbles

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The Independent Culture

They came to praise him, not to bury him. But that is because the Tories are always agreeable after they have finished a brutal slaying.

A little more than a week after Iain Duncan Smith was ignominiously ousted from the Conservative Party leadership, his former colleagues gathered last night to drink his wine and eat his canapés.

At the Fine Art Society in New Bond Street, London, just hours after he formally ceased to be party leader when his successor Michael Howard was crowned, Mr Duncan Smith launched his new career as a writer with the kind of party few first-time novelists are afforded.

A clutch of the great and the good - or at least, what passes for such in the Conservative Party these days - turned out to show support.

The shadow Foreign Secretary, Michael Ancram, an old friend, was first through the door, closely followed by Theresa May, the party chairman, who did not stay long, David Davis, Bernard Jenkin and Bill Cash.

The new Leader of the Opposition had a speaking engagement in Hove. "Obviously he would have loved to be here," a Central Office spokesman said.

No longer the possessor of an official car, Mr Duncan Smith arrived with his wife, Betsy, dressed in glittering sequins, a dignified 15 minutes or so after the official start, just long enough for an appropriate clamour to have developed.

"It's all a bit surreal really," Mr Duncan Smith said. "I lost the leadership last week but this was already planned. For me, it's good. It gives me something to focus on and move on. I never look back. I never have regrets."

He appeared to have adopted many of the clichés his critics accused him of using in his book, The Devil's Tune.

For fans, however, the good news is that his sudden removal from office will give him lots of time for a planned history of Conservatism and more novels.

He shrugged his shoulders at the criticism of his first effort. "It's a fun book. It's not meant to make people ponder the meaning of life. It's not for the Booker prize."

Then he went straight to the point. "People can write what they like as long as it sells."

That looks likely. Jeremy Robson, of the publishers Robson Books, said there had been "a mass" of orders in the past two days and the first print run was virtually sold out. He conceded that the launch party may have been brought forward "a week or two" in the light of the likely publicity.

None the less, Mr Robson regards the book, a thriller set in the worlds of art and American politics, as "compelling".

He said: "I have read comments or reviews of the book before it would be possible for the person commenting to have had the copy. Iain told me not to worry, because he's had that sort of thing for two years."