Britain's Conservative Party has begun its annual conference, hoping to exploit the recent dip in popularity of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In the western coastal city of Blackpool Monday, Party Chairman Theresa May urged the membership to rally behind leader Iain Duncan Smith and focus on defeating Mr. Blair's Labor government. She said there is a lot to be done.

Conservative Party officials have predicted that Mr. Duncan Smith will win the next election, but public opinion polls Monday appeared to tell a different story.

A poll for Sky News indicated that, despite the criticism heaped on Mr. Blair for leading Britain into the war in Iraq, 35 percent of the voters still prefer him as prime minister - against only 14 percent for Mr. Smith.

A poll in the Times newspaper indicated that 36 percent would vote Labor if an election were held today and only 31 percent for the Conservatives.

In the same poll, at least 56 percent of those questioned said they would be more likely to vote Conservative if someone other than Mr. Duncan Smith were party leader.