Duncan Smith warns of 'confusing messages'

War on Terrorism: Politics
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The Conservatives added to Tony Blair's problems over the war on terrorism yesterday by making their first significant criticism of the Government's handling of the crisis.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, said there had been "confusing messages" from the Government and warned that it appeared to be "losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the British people".

In a series of media interviews, Mr Duncan Smith said: "We have seen over the last few days a few mixed messages and lots of pictures of bombs going astray, without any real serious explanation as to why the bombing is part of an overall campaign."

He added: "We really do need to recognise that we need to redouble our efforts to explain the reasons why we are doing this and what is happening, to the British people, so they understand and we carry them with us."

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "puzzled" by Mr Duncan Smith's remarks. Speaking in Moscow, he said: "We always recognised that at this stage into a military campaign, when a lot is happening but the tangible results were not making headlines, we would have to ratchet up the explanations."

Last night Mr Duncan Smith told Tory MPs that the Opposition would continue to support the Government in its conduct of the war when it believed it to be right but would "make our criticisms clear" when it disagreed.

Outlining his strategy in his first speech to the 1922 Committee since becoming Tory leader, Mr Duncan Smith said his party would not indulge in knee-jerk opposition. "The Government will not find a more fearsome or dogged opponent when we believe it to be wrong, but we will never oppose just for the sake of opposing," he said.

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