Opposition in Britain ousts leader

Conservative Party fails to make inroads despite dissatisfaction with Blair

October 30, 2003|By COX NEWS SERVICE

LONDON - Members of Britain's Conservative Party ousted their leader, Iain Duncan Smith, succumbing yesterday to what has become their frequent habit of attacking one another instead of their Labor Party opponents.

Tory members of Parliament voted 90-75 to sack the party leader, who would have become prime minister had the party regained a majority in the House of Commons.

Duncan Smith, 49, was seen by many political professionals as a wooden orator and clumsy debater. He had failed to make much headway against Prime Minister Tony Blair despite public dissatisfaction with Blair over the war in Iraq and the alleged misuse of intelligence information that preceded it.

Before yesterday's vote, political observers had said the Tory party's prospects against Blair and his Labor Party in the next elections, expected in 2005, were grim: The party could limp along under an inept and uncharismatic leader, or it could divide itself even more deeply in a long, bitter leadership struggle.

Duncan Smith, a former army captain with a habit of lifting his chin in the air so that he looks down on whomever he is addressing, was elected party leader a little more than two years ago. His tenure was unhappy almost from the start.

Choosing a new leader will take from five weeks to three months. During that time, the Blair government might escape the regular and rigorous scrutiny that Britons expect their opposition parties to provide.

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