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Battle for Survival

Spoof leader "damaging" party
Members of a political party have accused a television comedy character of damaging their image. Iain Duncan Smith, the spoof Conservative leader created by comedian Alan Partridge, fronts the party in the TV comedy series I'm A Useless Sod. The programme, which enjoyed huge success in its first 18-year run, now sees Duncan Smith as a washed-up no-hoper, occupying the third-best leadership slot in the House of Commons. Real-life Conservatives no longer see the funny side.

"I enjoyed the first series of the show – Iain Duncan Smith was a hilarious comic character, and all credit to Alan Partridge for creating him – but now I think it's gone too far," said Conservative MP Michael Portillo. "We're trying to promote the Conservative Party as a party that can do business, and I don't just mean with Iraqi arms dealers, but we have no hope while the public associates us with a ridiculous buffoon."

Duncan Smith, whose catchphrases include "Ah! Errr…" and vast fits of nervous coughing, won several international television awards for the first marathon run of programmes, has released several comedy videos and currently has a critically-acclaimed "stand-up, sit-down, cough a bit" show touring Parliament.

Some MPs blame the so-called "IDS-effect" for the party's failed bid to be shortlisted for the European Party of Culture in 2008. "We really have to think about the image we're projecting," said Gregory T Mullet, who headed the bid, "and Iain Duncan Smith is not an image I would want to project."

A spokesman for the BBC said that Iain Duncan Smith is a comic character, not a real leader.

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