- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2001

LONDON — The two men battling for the leadership of Britain's Conservative Party ratcheted up the personal acrimony ahead of tomorrow's final tally of the Tory faithful.
In their last direct appeals to Conservative voters, former Chancellor of the Exchequer Ken Clarke and Shadow Defense Secretary Iain Duncan Smith clashed over Britain's relationship with Europe, the death penalty and which candidate could revive the battered party's appeal beyond the Tory base.
Mr. Clarke continued to cast his rival as an unelectable conservative.
Speaking to reporters after he addressed a crowd of more than 500 in Harrowgate, a quiet and once reliably Tory town in Yorkshire, Mr. Clarke reiterated his claim that Mr. Duncan Smith was a "hanger and a flogger," a reference to Mr. Duncan Smith's pro-death penalty views.
When pressed on the latter part of the claim, Mr. Clarke said with a smile, "I do suspect that he's a bit of flogger as well."
In an interview before the meeting, Mr. Duncan Smith complained about the amount of "personal acrimony" and "sticky patches" in the campaign and insisted that he had stayed above it.
"We need this like we need a hole in our head," said Mr. Duncan Smith, a favorite of former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
As for the personal attacks, Mr. Duncan Smith maintained, "I have not thrown insults around and I have tried to stay on the issues."
The party's central office reported last week that 235,500 paper ballots have been received, representing approximately 72 percent of eligible Tory voters. The deadline for the mail ballot is noon today, and the results should be known by tomorrow.
While both camps claimed that the high turnout bolstered their prospects, party operatives speculated that it most likely would benefit the better-known Mr. Clarke. In addition, the less active and less ideological members of the party may be more inclined to pick a winner for the general election.
"The more you get away from the hard-core activists, the better the chances that Ken Clarke will win," said Geoff Lawler, a former Tory member of Parliament and Clarke supporter.
Still, on the hustings, the crowds tend to support Mr. Duncan Smith by a margin of 2-to-1, a conservative party official estimated on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Duncan Smith's "Euro-skeptic" views clearly play well with the party rank and file. Mr. Clarke's supporters readily acknowledged that their candidate was out of step within his own party on the issues of closer ties with Europe and whether or not Britain should scrap the pound in favor of the euro.
For Mr. Clarke, "the issue is simply one of electability," said Mr. Lawler.
Even though the issue of Europe seems to be a political liability for Mr. Clarke, he tends to dwell on the subject.
"Clarke keeps talking about not talking about Europe," said Brandon Lewis, a Duncan Smith supporter and unsuccessful Tory candidate in the last general election.
The Labor government of Prime Minister Tony Blair — which won a resounding victory in June and is considered more pro-Europe — has promised to hold a referendum on the issue sometime before the next election.
While many of the party activists are casting their lots with Mr. Duncan Smith — the oddsmakers predict that he will win — his deep skepticism about closer ties to Europe has caused consternation among some party leaders who are convinced that his anti-European rhetoric is akin to political suicide.


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