Reactions vary as shine wears off rallying speech

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Indy Politics

Some grassroots Tories warned yesterday that Iain Duncan Smith had failed to quell their doubts about whether he was the right man to lead the party.

Despite the ecstatic reaction in the Blackpool conference hall to the Tory leader's speech, some of the shine appeared to be wearing off.

Jonathan Steel, chairman of Beaconsfield Conservative Association, who said before the speech that Mr Duncan Smith needed to make "an absolute barnstormer" to retain the leadership, condemned the Tory leader's "desperate" and "ill-advised" attack on Tony Blair.

Mr Steel said that the Tory leader's speech was much better than he had feared, but he added: "It drove me into despair. The fact is that whether we like him or not, and we don't, Tony Blair was elected to be the Prime Minister of this country.

"To use words like corrupt and liar in terms of the leader of our country is absolutely inappropriate and I think it is overstepping the bounds of what is acceptable in politics and amongst gentlemen."

Mr Steel said Mr Duncan Smith had "bought time", but warned: "The trouble is that, by buying time, we are not doing ourselves a service. I think that what we need to do is make a decision now to go with him through to the next election or do something else now."

Raj Chandran, a Nottinghamshire councillor, warned that the Tory leader was still on probation. He said Mr Duncan Smith had spoken to "a converted population" at the conference, adding: "We want him to go out and sell the product ... if he doesn't sell it, God help the Conservative Party. He has to prove himself as the robust leader that the Conservative Party wants to be led by. I give him probation of six months."

However, other local Tory activists were more supportive and said the speech should end the plotting against Mr Duncan Smith.

John Zylinski, from Ealing, west London, said that Mr Duncan Smith was the right man to lead the party. He added: "I'm happy. I think he has got a very good chance of doing what he wants to do providing all the cards fall into place."

According to Geoff Kirby, a Lincolnshire councillor, the Tory leader had learnt a lot from Baroness Thatcher. He said: "She was in his position in the 1970s when she took the job on and learned and learned. When she got into power, she was nothing like as formidable as she became."

Val Illingworth, a party activist from Leeds, rated the speech as "eight or nine out of ten". Ms Illingworth said: "What I like about Iain Duncan Smith is that he's genuine. You take him seriously and you believe that he will carry out what he says. After today, I'm sure he's here to stay."

Matthew Lobley, a councillor for Leeds City Council, added his support for the Tory leader. He said: "In Iain Duncan Smith we have a staunch, upstanding character."

Anne Main, a prospective Tory candidate for St Albans, said that Mr Duncan Smith had proved himself in tune with voters disillusioned with the Government. "The plotters have got egg on their faces. They will be thinking: 'Oh dear, we have definitely backed the wrong strategy'," she said. Richard Harries, from Newport, said: "If MPs rebel against the leadership next week, I think they would probably be misguided."

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