I will win next election, says IDS

Iain Duncan Smith was again forced to field questions about his leadership of the Tory Party as speculation about an imminent coup continued.

Mr Duncan Smith promised to bowl out Tony Blair at the next election before trying his hand at cricket on a university visit.

But at Westminster one Tory MP said a ballot of his colleagues was now the only way to end the "wretched speculation". Mr Duncan Smith was visibly frustrated as the leadership crisis overshadowed plans to talk about scrapping top-up fees during a visit to Loughborough.

Repeatedly pressed on his position, he insisted: "This party will win the next election under my leadership.

"There is no question about my leadership. The question is who is going to lead the country after the next election? And I can tell you now it is going to be me."

But Crispin Blunt, who quit the Tory frontbench to call for Mr Duncan Smith to go, said a ballot of MPs was needed to settle the leadership issue one way or another.

"People who believe a change would be in the interests of the party are now in agreement with those people who supported Iain that this issue must be resolved," he said.

"The vast majority I think of the whole of the party want this issue to end. The only way it can end is a formal vote of confidence by the parliamentary party so the logic is inescapable."

Sir Michael Spicer, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, is obliged to call the ballot if 15% of the parliamentary party - 25 MPs - call for one, which they can do anonymously. Despite mounting speculation since the party's annual conference that number has not been reached.

However, there were predictions that MPs could strike when they return to the Commons on Monday after one of the party's biggest donors, Stuart Wheeler, said they had a "duty" to do so.

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