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Duncan Smith demands dry cleaning be returned by Wednesday
27 Oct 2003 by Malcolm Drury
Potentially-erstwhile leader of the Conservative "Party", Iain Duncan Smith, has demanded that his missing dry cleaning be returned by 6pm GMT on Wednesday this week or he will take "definite action, probably".
The dry cleaning - two suits, a dinner jacket, a number of expensive silk ties and a fleece-lined winter coat - has not been seen since his wife Betsy dropped it off at QuickieKleen in the High Street in Chingford three weeks ago last Tuesday. "It was supposed to be ready the following Thursday," said Douglas Ramsbottom, a worker in Mr Duncan Smith's constituency office who had been charged with collecting the dry cleaning. "But when I went there the place was closed and a big 'Gone out of business' sign was in the window."
Speculation has been growing among Conservatives that the missing dry cleaning is the result of a plot by a group of dissident Tory MPs who wish to embarrass Mr Duncan Smith and force a leadership review. Insiders believe that as many as 25 such dissidents may have passed the hat and collectively bought out and then closed down the Chingford QuickieKleen operation.
One of those named as a possible member of the group, a former Cabinet Minister who asked to remain anonymous, told DeadBrain that while there was no such plot and never had been, nevertheless the fact remained that the Party should seriously consider whether someone "who can't even manage his dry cleaning" could hope to manage the country.
However, Mr Duncan Smith, not to be cowed, has come out fighting. In a prepared statement, he said: "For the last few weeks the Conservative Party has been gripped by a fever. It is a fever that is demoralising our party's grassroots and appalling the public. I believe it must be ended over the next 48 hours and in a manner wholly different from the way it began. Britain has far more serious issues to confront than the whereabouts of my dry cleaning."
Addressing reporters later, he said he was drawing a line in the sand. If he did not get his clothes back by the deadline he had set, he said, he pledged to bang on the door of the QuickieKleen establishment "all day if I have to, or at least until tea-time" to get somebody to open up. "I am absolutely determined to get my belongings back," he said. "Anyone who thinks I am somebody who quits needs to understand something about me: I have never quit yet and I'm not about to do so now."
Meanwhile, he told Tory MPs, his own door would be open for them to come and tell him why they thought him unfit to lead the party, or if they didn't feel comfortable doing that, at least to lend him a tie.
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