ACTUALITY FROM DAD'S ARMY: Don't panic, don't panic.
MARTIN POPPLEWELL: For supporters of the Conservative
Party the week has been far from amusing.
ACTUALITY FROM DAD'S ARMY: I'm in charge now, I'm in charge now.
POPPLEWELL: The Tories have been described
as the most successful political party in the Western world, but some observers
say their performance this week has more closely resembled a farce.
MICHAEL BROWN: Iain Duncan Smith is supposed to
be an Army man, but this is more a Dad's Army man and he's going round
like Captain Mainwaring stamping his feet and you've got the Corporal behind
him saying "don't panic, don't panic". Well, that's not the way to run
a serious political party.
POPPLEWELL: This time last week there was
few signs that the Conservative Party was about stumble into the biggest
political crisis since Iain Duncan Smith became its leader. But, by Monday
morning, officials here at Conservative Central Office were busy trying
to deal with the resignation of John Bercow - a member of his Shadow Cabinet
- over the issue of adoption. By that evening more than forty Tory Members
of Parliament had failed to vote in support of the party line and the
problems for Iain Duncan Smith weren't ending there.
When Captain Mainwaring was looking after the Home Guard,
homosexuality alone would put you in prison. But, in a sign of how much
society has changed, the Adoption Bill, which this week became law, allows
unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, to adopt children.
INTRODUCTION TO ADOPTION DEBATE
4th NOVEMBER 3.38 PM: The clerk will now proceed
to read the orders of the day. Adoption and Children Bill, consideration
of Lords' amendments.
POPPLEWELL: The legislation goes to the
heart of the debate, dividing the Conservative Party. Some modernisers
support the legislation saying the Party needs to represent the Britain
of 2002, not 1942. Even more MPs say there should have been a free vote.
NIGEL WATERSON MP: Well, I voted with the Party
line because that happens to be what I agree with. I think it was inappropriate
to have a three line whip. There was a lot of muddle over whether it really
was a three line whip or not and I think in retrospect everyone accepts
it was a mistake.
POPPLEWELL: For many the sense of panic
and the bunker mentality was exacerbated by Iain Duncan Smith calling a
press conference to make a personal statement. The word resignation was
on everyone's' lips.
IAIN DUNCAN SMITH MP: Over the last few weeks,
a small group of my Parliamentary colleagues have decided consciously to
undermine my leadership. For a few, last night's vote was not about adoption,
but an attempt to challenge my mandate to lead this party.
POPPLEWELL: According to the former MP,
Michael Brown, the statement was a tactical disaster.
BROWN: This was the week when Iain
Duncan Smith, true to form, 397 years to the day, 5 November, after the
gun powder plot, that he decided to blow up the Conservative Party, if
not the Houses of Parliament, but I don't know whether there are any plots
around, if there is a plot, Iain Duncan Smith has lost it.
POPPLEWELL: The end result of the week's
events is fevered speculation about the leadership of Iain Duncan Smith
and his chances of surviving. We've spoken to a number of Conservative
MPs who do want a change in the leadership. They believe that more poor
performances in the Commons and judgements which produce rebellions like
this week's on adoption, could well lead the Conservative Party to adopting
a new leader, and now even more MPs are willing to openly call for an improvement
in their leader's performance.
WATERSON: Well, I think everyone
recognises, including Iain, that we've got to do better. He has got to
do better personally and I think he has been improved, particularly at
Prime Minister's Questions, we all have to do better as a party. We've
got to get off this plateau in the low thirties of the opinion polls and
I think there have been a couple of stumbles recently, which although blown
up out of proportion, I think just remind us that you know he has some
way to go before he, before he's battling Tony Blair on equal terms.
BROWN: Another gaff could set it
all off next week. I mean, he's got a big speech coming with the Queen's
Speech, first time he's ever made a response to the Queen's Speech, a big
forty minute/forty five minute set piece occasion in the House of Commons,
it could be a wonderful oratorical triumph. I'm not holding my breath
but it could be and if it is, he could be with one bound free and we would
be writing up you know 'on the way to Downing Street', on the other hand
he could flop, and if he flops he can't afford to and I suspect that the
end could come quite quickly.
POPPLEWELL: Some MPs are now risking the
political equivalent of a court martial by implying that Iain Duncan Smith
is on probation.
WATERSON: Well, I don't think in
this day and age that any leader can expect necessarily to stay in that
role for the whole of a Parliament if progress is not being made. I think
it's far too early too early to be talking about any of this, but half
way through this Parliament, which coincides to some extent with the May
elections, local and other elections, would be a good time to review things.
POPPLEWELL: But others who are eager to
escape the gloom which still consumes the Conservative Party say the final
push against IDS him could even come before May.
ACTUALITY FROM DAD'S ARMY: We're doomed, doomed.