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Paul Geater interviews Ian Duncan Smith

PUBLISHED: 16:28 16 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:21 03 March 2010

IT had been a trying day for Iain Duncan Smith.

His train had been delayed by two hours. His schedule had been thrown into confusion, making him miss a visit to party activists.

IT had been a trying day for Iain Duncan Smith.

His train had been delayed by two hours. His schedule had been thrown into confusion, making him miss a visit to party activists. And he still wasn't sure when he would get back to London in time for vital meetings.

But despite all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, he was still enjoying his trip to the town.

"This is a very positive campaign – there is very great concern out there about how the country is going," he said.

"There are very serious problems for public services like health and education. Health is a very big issue in this by-election with the problems of bed blocking at Ipswich Hospital.

"We are drawing up policies to tackle issues like this – and we are starting to get our message across to the British people."

Mr Duncan Smith has sent his front-bench spokesman to countries around the world to see how other countries organise the public services.

"The shadow health secretary is a doctor – Liam Fox who was here last week," he said. "He's been to countries all over the place to see how they organise their public services.

"He's been to countries in Europe and further afield – as far away as Australia – in an attempt to see how their health services operate.

"It's all about choice. The current government says we can have choice in all aspects of our life except health and education – we are looking at alternatives to that," he said.

Mr Duncan Smith said the strength of the British economy should allow the country to have a better quality of public services.

"We're the fourth largest economy in the world but we have third world public services – we deserve better."

During his visit to Ipswich, Mr Duncan Smith had visited the Barrack Lane Medical Centre.

"They were concerned about the problems at the hospital with bed blocking and waiting lists."

During the General Election campaign, the Conservatives were perceived as being out of touch with the electorate, apparently only interested in Europe and with little to say on public services.

Mr Duncan Smith said that was now changing.

"We are working hard with our public service agenda – they are the issues that affect real people.

"People know me and know where I'm coming from on Europe – it's not the over-riding issue."

And he rejected claims that the Conservatives had lost in June because they had become too right wing.

"Most people aren't interested in labels such as right-wing or left-wing. They want to know how we are going to tackle the problems we are facing.

"In June I think our problem was that people felt Labour had only had four years and deserved another chance to try to get things right – but the next three and a half or four years will be very different."

He was very keen that the party should concentrate on local issues – and was impressed that Ipswich candidate Paul West had firm local roots.

"He is in touch with what local people want and is prepared to put Ipswich first, before political dogma.

"The Liberals have chosen a candidate from outside and another Labour MP would get lost in the House of Commons. Paul West will be a fine candidate for the town," he said.

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