Mr Duncan Smith’s comments appeared to contradict both Mr Cameron’s assertion that he would serve “every day” of a second term if he remains in power following the 7 May general election, and Downing Street suggestions that he may fight the 2020 poll before handing over to a replacement.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith, himself a former Tory leader, said Mr Cameron would choose the timing of his departure and he would be “sorry to see him go”.
Mr Cameron sparked speculation about his future by saying last week he was not contemplating a third term as Prime Minister, just weeks before seeking election to a second term.
Asked if Mr Cameron has to “stand down at some point during the next Parliament” in order to allow a successor to be in place for the election, Mr Duncan Smith said: “He does. But I have huge faith in the Prime Minister.
“I think, given the nature of the terrible circumstances we inherited, under his leadership he’s turned the economy around and taken some tough decisions.
“He will do what he says, which is he will serve what essentially is a full term. Of course, there will be a competition at some point, but I have to tell you that will be a competition on the back of a successful Prime Minister doing something that most prime ministers have never done before – saying ‘I know when it’s time to go’.
“You’ve had to literally rap the knuckles of people like Gordon Brown and previous prime ministers to get them to think of going. He is actually very keen to say, ‘There is a limit. There’s an amount of time a prime minister should serve before they get stale’. And he is right about that.”
The Prime Minister named George Osborne, Theresa May and Boris Johnson as potential candidates to step into his shoes. Mr Duncan Smith refused to identity possible successors.
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