Duncan Smith accuses Portillo of backing 'pashmina politics'

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Calls for a truce in the increasingly bitter war of words over the Tory party leadership went unheeded yesterday when Iain Duncan Smith accused Michael Portillo of fad-driven "pashmina politics".

As the party waited for a declaration from Kenneth Clarke, both Mr Portillo and Michael Ancram, who is also standing, appealed for fewer personal attacks, and said all of the candidates should "build each other up". But within minutes of these calls for calm, Mr Duncan Smith appeared on television to launch one of the most savage attacks to date on the shadow Chancellor.

In a clear reference to Mr Portillo's calls for a fundamental review of Conservative policies, Mr Duncan Smith said that any change had to be set within the context of the Tory party's core beliefs and traditions. "My concern would be we launch off on pashmina politics, where we end up adopting the fad just about to go out of fashion," he said.

The jibe, which echoes a comment from Mr Ancram that the party did not need "spin and stardust", follows mounting criticism among Mr Portillo's rivals that he is about to embark on a Tony Blair-style re-invention of the Conservatives. Mr Portillo had earlier joined Mr Ancram and David Davis, the fourth contender, in calling for a campaign similar to that in 1990 when the three main contenders, John Major, Douglas Hurd and Michael Heseltine, were "always paying tributes to one another.

"People thought better of the Conservative Party at the end of it, and they thought what a good bunch of guys ­ they all respect each other and they build each other up," he told yesterday's edition of Breakfast with Frost on BBC television.

Mr Ancram, who resigned as Tory chairman to fight for the leadership, also called for a move away from the politics of personality. "We all trust each other, we have all worked with each other over long periods of time, we have all showed collective responsibility," he said. "I think that is the spirit in which we should conduct this campaign. We want to come out of this campaign stronger and more united than when we went into it, and we are not going to do that if we indulge in the politics of personality."

In his interview with Sir David Frost, Mr Portillo said he had been "completely straightforward" about his account of his homosexual experiences as a young man. When asked if he had been "completely truthful" with his claim that there would be no further revelations about his private life after 1982, when he became a married man, the shadow Chancellor replied: "Yes".

"I have been completely straightforward about this, and I don't think any politician has been as straightforward as I have been." he said.

In The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Portillo warned that while some of his colleagues grasped the magnitude of the danger facing the party after its second consecutive general election drubbing, "there's a slightly larger number who still think that this is necessarily the bottom, that things could only get better". He cautioned: "There's no basis for that assumption.