Duncan Smith refuses leadership debate

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Indy Politics

The two-week truce in the Tory leadership contest ended yesterday as Kenneth Clarke's supporters accused Iain Duncan Smith of "running scared" of head-to-head debates.

Mr Clarke's supporters called the shadow Defence Secretary "Iain Duncan Frit" after he rejected calls for eight local hustings meetings to be held in a debate format.

But Mr Duncan Smith's campaign wasscathing about the claims. "Iain believes he should meet as many members in person as possible, which is why he's touring the country giving speeches," said one supporter.

The Clarke camp spoke out as their candidate received the endorsement of 125 Tory general election candidates and young Conservatives claimed in a letter to The Independent that the party could only win back affluent graduates in their early 30s under his leadership.

Mr Duncan Smith will call today for the Tories to give more power to local councils and to adopt more councillors as parliamentary candidates.

The flurry of activity came as the two-week pause in the contest ended at midnight last night and the race entered its final phase. Ballot papers will be issued to 300,000 party members next week, giving them four weeks before voting ends on 11 September.

Local hustings meetings, beginning on 22 August, will allow the candidates to deliver a 15-minute address and answer questions, but neither man will be able to interrupt or debate with his rival.