Bill's Archived Comments

for the week beginning: Monday, 24th February 2003


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- Time is running out for Iain Duncan Smith (I hope!) (24 Feb 2003)

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Time is running out for Iain Duncan Smith (I hope!) (24 Feb 2003)

The weekend before last, the Leader of the Conservative Party decided to make some personnel changes by sacking Mark MacGregor (Party Chief Executive) and Rick Nye (Head of Research). The Board of the Party, the ultimate decision-making authority in the organisation, is apparently much-aggrieved not to have been consulted about the change of Chief Executive. Mr Duncan Smith has replaced Mr MacGregor with Mr Barry Legg, who is a close friend of Duncan Smith and, like him, a right-wing Euro-sceptic.

It further emerges today that Stephen Gilbert, Campaign Director, was notified of his dismissal at the same time as the other two, but that he was subsequently asked to delay his departure until the day after the May elections (local, Scottish and Welsh) and meantime to keep his dismissal a secret; Party agents around the country are evidently very unamused by both the fact of Mr Gilbert's dismissal and by the way it has been achieved.

An observation - Mr MacGregor was away the weekend before last on a mid-term break in Paris and was notified of his dismissal by telephone. A similar tactic seems to have been adopted last year at the time Mr David Davis was sacked as Party Chairman, he having been away on holiday in Florida at the time. It is not clear, in either case, that the personnel changes were so urgent that they could not have waited until the return of the two men to London. Perhaps it says something about the management style of Mr Duncan Smith - in my view, nothing very positive, though.

By the end of the week, the internal conflicts in the Conservative Party had erupted into a public relations disaster. Michael Portillo gave his devastating (and accurate) analysis of Mr Duncan Smith's leadership skills - in effect dismissing Mr Duncan Smith as not just a 'quiet' man. but a 'small' man too, who surrounds himself with small grasses (i.e. mediocrities who mirror his own views).

Today we learn that Mr Duncan Smith has, over this past weekend, been orchestrating a letter-writing campaign by prospective candidates for Westminster and my MEPs, to denounce Mr Portillo. It seems that many of both have flatly refused to associate their names with such tactics, although some have. Such are the tactics adopted by the devious individual who is currently Leader of the Conservative Party.

As a former member of the Conservative Party, who resigned within days of the election as leader of Duncan Smith, I have a mixture of emotions:

  • sadness that the Conservative Party is yet again tearing itself apart;
  • a certain amount of 'schadenfreude', because I was pretty certain that Mr Duncan Smith would prove disastrous for the electoral success of the Party;
  • indifference at the plight of this once-great Party, which has only itself to blame. The members who voted for Iain Duncan Smith are reaping the whirlwind for the folly they exhibited in electing him as their Leader .

Ironically, all this comes at a time when the Labour government's ill-thought-out economic policies are beginning to become seriously unstuck and when there had been some sign that the opinion polls were just in the process of  beginning to swing back toward the Conservative in a minor way. Mr Duncan Smith has described the recent personnel changes as 'meaningless' and 'unimportant'; perhaps he might replace Ricky Gervais in the next series of "The Office", a UK television satire on a modern British office and its incompetent, but essentially decent, manager.


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Copyright © 2003 William Cameron