Rebel Blunt bets on a new mood with fresh call to depose Duncan Smith

Some people would have been deterred by the frosty response Crispin Blunt received in May when he called for an uprising among Tory MPs to ditch Iain Duncan Smith. Not a single one of his 164 colleagues was ready to join him.

But this week the 43-year-old MP for Reigate has issued a second call to arms, writing to fellow MPs to urge them to depose the Tory leader before Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, rules on whether Mr Duncan Smith paid his wife, Betsy, too much from public funds when she worked as his secretary.

Mr Blunt's first attempted putsch, made on the day of the local elections, was a classic case of bad timing. The Tories had been expected to do badly - and had cleverly lowered expectations of what they could achieve. So when their net gain was more than 550 seats, Mr Duncan Smith was safe and Mr Blunt was cast in the role of villain rather than hero.

He had the grace to admit defeat, though he never changed his view of the party's prospects under its present leader. The mood of his colleagues towards him changed during the ill-fated Tory conference in Blackpool this month. As speculation mounted about another attempt to topple Mr Duncan Smith, a common refrain was: "Perhaps Crispin was right."

He resigned as an opposition spokesman on trade and industry to make his call in May and thought he was the right man to set the ball rolling because he was not allied any of the alternative leadership candidates. A former special adviser, he worked for Sir Malcolm Rifkind at the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office before winning the nomination to fight Reigate in 1997. Before that, he was an Army officer, serving in the 13th/18th Royal Hussars.

So it is perhaps no surprise that he sees his manoeuvres against Mr Duncan Smith in terms of his patriotic duty to his party. This week's letter said: "We must act now to save our party from further decline ... we do have an opportunity now to return our party to power and this is absolutely in the country's interest."

After his false start in May, Mr Blunt candidly admitted to his colleagues: "I realise I am testing your patience again and that some of you will charge me with vainglorious self-indulgence."

Indeed, some of them would, calling him "an amiable plonker". But one colleague said yesterday: "The letter was typical Crispin - it was a little self-indulgent. But he was proved right by events since May, and this time he may have got his timing right."

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