Frantic efforts under way to bolster constituency support

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Indy Politics

The campaign by Iain Duncan Smith to save his leadership is being masterminded by the party's head of news, Nick Wood, and the leader's political secretary, Tim Montgomerie.

The Tory leader is also likely to be in close contact with his parliamentary aides Owen Paterson and Alistair Burt, as well as allies such as John Hayes, MP for South Holland and The Deepings.

Mr Duncan Smith is expected to spend this week trying to save his job. On the surface, he will follow his usual diary, spending today and tomorrow working from the Leader of the Opposition's office. But behind the scenes, frantic efforts will be under way to prevent his support ebbing away. Much attention will be focused on preparing for Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, before the weekly meeting of the 1922 Committee. The Tory leader's allies hope to use a speech he will make on Thursday to relaunch Mr Duncan Smith and the party at the start of an 18-month drive to communicate the Conservatives' policies to grassroots activists and the public.

The speech to the Centre for Policy Studies is intended to communicate the new policies to the wider party and the electorate, and will be followed by a concerted drive by members of the Shadow Cabinet to take the new agenda out to the country.

Yesterday, Mr Duncan Smith pointedly emphasised it was "business as usual". He left his Breakfast with Frost interview to join a national demonstration against university top-up fees in central London. But as he spoke, Conservative Central Office mobilised a string of loyal MPs to contact newspapers to counter a weekend of hugely damaging stories about discontent in the Tory ranks.

Senior figures are thought to have spent the weekend contacting local party chairmen to rally the grass roots, who then, in turn, telephoned their colleagues around the country, to apply pressure on potential rebels and stave off a leadership bid. The tactics appeared to be bolstered by a BBC survey of party chairmen suggesting 78 per cent rejected a change of leader.

The party high command also attempted to counter the haemorrhaging of support from party donors. They issued a statement from a senior donor, Leonard Steinberg, backing the party leader.

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