Tory MP demands gaffe-free year from Duncan Smith

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Iain Duncan Smith was warned by a senior Conservative MP yesterday that he had until Christmas to put in a "faultless" performance or face a leadership challenge.

Iain Duncan Smith was warned by a senior Conservative MP yesterday that he had until Christmas to put in a "faultless" performance or face a leadership challenge.

The warning came as the Tory leader was accused of making a fresh gaffe by admitting that his party's new slogan, "A Fair Deal For Everyone", could be "the most boring thing you ever heard".

Mr Duncan Smith's remarks, in an interview with The Spectator magazine, came on the eve of today's party "away day" in Buckinghamshire. The event is intended to allow MPs to discuss strategy and the new slogan, around which Mr Duncan Smith wants to fight the next general election.

Derek Conway, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, has in effect put the Tory leader on probation. Mr Conway scored a significant victory this week after Mr Duncan Smith finally heeded his call to oust Barry Legg, his chief of staff and the party's chief executive.

Yesterday, Mr Conway maintained the pressure by warning that Mr Duncan Smith would survive to the general election only if there were no more "self-inflicted" mistakes.

"The leadership of the Tory party is a leasehold occupation and not a fiefdom," Mr Conway told John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "You are never out of the woods because you have nasty people like me and you pursuing them ...

"Iain Duncan Smith is in a hurdle race until the next general election. The local election results were good for him, and it was a hurdle to get over. The trouble is there are still a lot of hurdles out there to trip over."

Asked if one of those hurdles was 25 MPs waiting to sign a motion of no confidence, Mr Conway replied: "Inevitably. The rules of the party are such that I think between now and Christmas Iain has to have a pretty faultless time, otherwise people will keep on plotting and gossiping and speculating," he said.

Crispin Blunt, the MP for Reigate who last week called for MPs to depose the leader, said his colleagues had only a fortnight in which to ensure that a new leader was in place before the summer recess.

In his Spectator interview, Mr Duncan Smith claimed that his "Fair Deal" catchphrase was an attempt to highlight the unfairness of Labour's high tax and low delivery record. But asked why he chose the phrase, he replied "I don't know ... You tell me. I mean, you probably think it's the most boring thing you ever heard."

John Reid, the Leader of the Commons, said during Business Questions yesterday that the Tory party should not use public funds to pay off Mr Legg.

"We have been generous in providing £16m to the Opposition which, as we always say with the public services, just shows that by throwing money at a problem you don't necessarily solve it," he said. "I trust that none of this money will be involved in any fat-cat pay-offs to Mr Legg."

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