Hayton, Richard (2010) Leadership without authority: Iain Duncan Smith as leader of the Conservative Party. In: Leaders of the Opposition: From Churchill To Cameron, 9 July 2010, University of Leeds. (Unpublished)

This chapter analyses the tenure of Iain Duncan Smith as leader of the Conservative Party in opposition between September 2001 and October 2003. It argues that his leadership was fatally undermined by a lack of authority within his own party. This problem was derived in part from the manner of his election, during which he received the explicit endorsement of less than a third of his parliamentary colleagues, but flowed more fundamentally from his limitations as a political leader.

Duncan Smith’s leadership weaknesses are considered in relation to three main themes. Firstly, he was an ineffectual public communicator. As leader of the opposition he had three main audiences to address: the Parliamentary Conservative Party (PCP), the wider party (i.e. the membership), and the electorate. In each case he failed to connect successfully, making little impact with the general public and losing the confidence of his parliamentary colleagues and, eventually, the party members whose votes had installed him as leader. Secondly, his leadership was plagued with party management problems, and as the chapter explores, many of these were self-inflicted and eminently avoidable. Thirdly, the chapter suggest that Duncan Smith’s personality was ill-suited to the role of leader of the opposition, as his handling of moments of crisis demonstrates the difficulties he experienced coping with the pressures of leadership.

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