Ian Duncan Smith urges smaller Tory leadership field

Fomer minister calls for change in rules to avert risk of contest descending into chaos

The Conservative leadership contest risks descending into chaos unless it is streamlined, former leader Iain Duncan Smith has warned.

With 11 candidates already declared and more expected to join the race within days, Mr Duncan Smith said the backbench 1922 Committee should change the party’s election rules to reduce the field.

“This election has become beyond anything we have experience before and because we are looking at electing a prime minister, not just a leader . . . it needs to be done pretty sharply,” he told the BBC.

MPs need just two nominations to enter the contest, which means MPs whittle down the candidates in successive rounds of voting until just two are chosen to go before the entire Conservative membership. The MPs will vote on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with one candidate eliminated after each round.


Mr Duncan Smith said the 1922 Committee should raise the threshold for nomination so that candidates would need the backing of 10 MPs. And he said the early rounds of voting could be accelerated if the lowest two or three candidates were eliminated.

“It may not be popular but I think given the nature of the fact we need to present a face of a party that actually can get jobs done we don’t want to have this meandering around looking like chaos,” he said.

Chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond said he could not support any candidate who pursued no-deal Brexit as a policy choice. And he suggested that a second referendum would be preferable to a general election if parliament failed to resolve the Brexit impasse.

“If we do get to the point where parliament has to admit that it cannot resolve this issue then clearly it will have to be remitted back to the people,” he said.

“I am not sure that a general election can resolve the question for the simple reason that both the main political parties are divided on the issue.”

No deal Brexit option

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said he would "use every lever of the executive" to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit and that he would order all cabinet ministers to commit to a policy of leaving the EU without a deal.

Former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, who has described a no-deal Brexit as “the only viable and acceptable” remaining option, faced criticism on Thursday after she said that parents should be able to take their children out of classes on LGBT relationships.

“I believe parents know best for their children. While they’re still children – and we’re talking primary school age – then really the parents need to have the final say on what they want their children to know,” she said.

Former Conservative education secretary Justine Greening told Ms McVey she could not pick and choose on human rights and equality.

“Children should understand a modern and diverse Britain they’re growing up in. Matters for social mobility too – you can’t be your best if you can’t be yourself,” said Ms Greening.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times