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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 14:11 GMT
Tories seek to replace Portillo
Michael Portillo
Portillo plans to quit parliament
Tories in Kensington and Chelsea are beginning the hunt to find a replacement for MP Michael Portillo.

The ex-defence secretary is to quit parliament at the next election.

He announced his decision last November saying he wanted to explore new opportunities in the arts, public bodies and the media.

Mr Portillo won the high profile safe Tory seat in a by-election in 1999 following the death of the colourful MP and diarist Alan Clark.

He had previously represented Enfield Southgate from 1984 - a seat he lost to Stephen Twigg in what became one of the iconic moments of the 1997 general election.

After his re-election Mr Portillo was quickly given the senior job as shadow chancellor on the Opposition frontbench.

Following the 2001 election defeat and William Hague's resignation he launched a bid to become Conservative leader.

Hunt is on

He stood on a platform emphasising the public services and calling for radical reform of his party.

Although supported by the bulk of the outgoing shadow cabinet, he came only third in a vote by Tory MPs, and immediately announced his intention to return to the backbenches.

Now the Kensington and Chelsea local Conservative association are asking people interested in representing the seat in Parliament to come forward.

Having advertised through the candidates department at Conservative Central Office, the final selection meeting will take place on February 25th in Kensington Town Hall.

Speaking as the selection process got underway, Shireen Ritchie, the association chairman, said: "This is an exciting time for us as we set out to find a new candidate who will be our standard bearer at the next election and who will represent the full diversity and opinion of the people who live within Kensington and Chelsea."

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