David Davis, the sacked Conservative chairman, yesterday made it plain he holds Iain Duncan Smith, the party leader, personally responsible for damaging briefings against him.
Despite an attempt by the party yesterday to draw a line under the bitterness surrounding the humiliating demotion of Mr Davis by telephone, he has told friends of the difficulties in working for a man he believes has deliberately undermined him.
In a statement outside his Yorkshire home yesterday afternoon, Mr Davis said it had been a "bad fortnight" for the Tories. And, in a stinging attack on those who briefed newspapers that he was lazy, opposed to modernising the party, a "square peg in a round hole" and had designs on the party leadership, he said: "Anyone who knows me will recognise that the orchestrated campaign of character assassination was a tissue of lies.
"It was intended to harm me but the real victim has been the Conservative Party. The impression of unpleasantness and division has destroyed us in the past. Vendettas and character assassinations have wrecked the last three Conservative leaderships.
"We cannot let this happen again. It is time to draw a line under these things. That is what I intend to do and I will say nothing more about it."
Privately Mr Davis is livid about the way he has been treated. His first impulse on being demoted to shadow the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott – news he heard over the telephone while on holiday in Florida – was to resign.
A friend said: "His dilemma was simple. Resign and become a permanent focus for dissent or stay. He didn't want to be the new Michael Heseltine. His heart was telling him to do one thing and his head told him to do the right thing."
But Mr Davis, who is determined to knuckle down to his new job when he returns to London tomorrow, privately admits it will not be easy.
A friend said: "The problem for David is that he knows Iain Duncan Smith was briefing against him. When you have a party leader willing to engage in that sort of activity it is very difficult."
Mr Duncan Smith is thought to have been influenced by a number of Central Office aides, including his director of strategy, Dominic Cummings, who clashed with Mr Davis in June after the then party chairman publicly disowned his remarks that the Tories should not lead the anti-euro campaign because they were so unpopular. The relationship never recovered.
Allies of Mr Davis said last night: "There is a Jo Moore figure in CCO who thinks he is above elected politicians and has taken it upon himself to poison Iain Duncan Smith's mind against David Davis – and a very successful job he has done of it."
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