Tory activists voice disquiet over party's performance

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Tory activists have expressed their frustration and impatience at the party's performance, its lack of policies and failure to land significant punches on Tony Blair.

The criticism comes in a confidential report, leaked to The Independent, which says that local members believe the party is failing to exploit people's disquiet at the problems afflicting public services.

The report, based on consultation with prominent grassroots activists, says: "We realise it will take time but there is need for more impact. And for many [members] the time is ripe ... We still do not seem to be hitting the headlines as a party on policy issues."

That point was emphasised in a speech last night by Iain Duncan Smith in which he set out his strategy but avoided any specific policy pledges.

There is strong opposition to Mr Duncan Smith's plan to delay issuing the Tories' policy blueprint for two years. "Associations feel we are in a vacuum," says the document, adding that members want to "move on to policy" and attack the Government over social security, education and health.

Grassroots Tories are worried about the low profile of some shadow cabinet members. They praise David Davis, the party chairman; Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary; Theresa May (transport) and Liam Fox (health). But the report adds: "Others remain quiet ... We need to confront ministers with more penetrating questions." After four months as leader, the verdict on Mr Duncan Smith is grudgingly positive. "The leader grows quietly in strength ... [He] is beginning to get more press coverage – looking alright."

Summarising the members' views, John Filer, the party's regional co-ordinator, says: "The overall view is that we are moving in the right direction – albeit too slowly for some."

Mr Duncan Smith, speaking in Birmingham, said his party would "make policy from principle" unlike Labour, and focus on "the issues that make most difference to people's lives" – health, education and transport.

But the Tory leader appeared to contradict a recent pledge to put public services above tax cuts. He told the Financial Times he wanted to shrink the role of the state, adding: "If we get less government people will ... have more to spend on the services they choose."

Leading article, Review, page 3; Michael Brown, Review, page 4