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Conference 99 Wednesday, 22 September, 1999, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Tory key figures
BBC News Online offers a quick guide to some of the key figures who are likely to make the news at the Conservative Party conference.

William Hague: A veteran attender of party conferences
William Hague

Questions about William Hague's leadership appeared to have been silenced - temporarily at least - by the Tories' victory in June's European election, despite the record low turnout.

He also bolstered his position with a major reshuffle of his shadow cabinet, promoting people such as Andrew Lansley and Theresa May who strongly back his Eurosceptic stance.

In a further tightening of his grip Mr Hague has taken joint control of the party's policy review.

However, despite these successes there has been the embarrassing leak of plans to boost his poor public image with a series of contrived photo opportunities.

And he cannot be pleased at continuing media speculation about if and when he will be replaced by Ann Widdecombe or Michael Portillo.

Ann Widdecombe: Darling of last year's gathering
Ann Widdecombe

Ann Widdecombe's star has been steadily rising since her much-praised appearance at last year's conference.

In the June reshuffle she was promoted from health to shadow home secretary.

Her profile was raised even further when Mr Hague put her in charge of leading the summer offensive against Labour while he was on holiday.

The former minister has got stuck in taking the government to task on everything from the record numbers of asylum seekers to the number of pairs of socks sewn by prisoners in jail.

Her performance has so impressed some commentators that they have even suggested she would make a better party leader than Mr Hague.

But she is out-of step with many Tories on one key issue. Her vocal support for Labour's planned ban on fox hunting has led Mr Hague to bar her from speaking for the party on the issue.

Francis Maude: Heading Eurosceptic campaign
Francis Maude

With the battle over the single currency set to heat up this autumn, the shadow chancellor is likely to be at the forefront of Tory efforts to preserve the pound.

Mr Maude is a Eurosceptic who nevertheless signed the Maastricht Treaty when he was a Foreign Office minister.

He claims that Labour secretly plans to scrap the pound and join the single currency at the earliest opportunity.

The fact that he was not moved in Mr Hague's radical reshuffle can be seen as a vote of confidence in his abilities.

Michael Portillo: Fringe speech could be biggest attraction
Michael Portillo

The former defence secretary has had plenty of time to plan his political resurrection in between bouts of journalism and documentary making.

When in office he was such a right-wing hate figure for Labour supporters that his unseating at the last general election was the cause of national rejoicing.

But during his two years in the wilderness Mr Portillo has tried to overhaul his image.

Eyebrows were raised by his pleas for a more caring style of Conservatism.

Mr Portillo has also confirmed long-standing rumours that he has had gay affairs.

One thing that does not appear to have changed is his staunch Euroscepticism.

The prospect of his full-time return to politics has stirred speculation that he might ultimately challenge Mr Hague for the party leadership.

Don't look back in anger: John Major
John Major

The former prime minister is likely to make an impact even if he does not utter a single word while he is in Blackpool.

Tories are waiting with bated breath for his long-awaited memoirs which are to be published, with an accompanying BBC TV series, after the conference.

A furore was caused by a sneak preview in which Mr Major described Lady Thatcher's interventions during his premiership as "intolerable".

Senior party figures downplayed the row and dismissed its as past history. But they may be anxious to discover what else Mr Major has to say.

Michael Ancram: Conference organiser
Michael Ancram

As party chairman Michael Ancram will be closely involved in the organisation and running of the conference.

In the past year he has been buoyed by Conservative victories in the European elections and the Eddisbury by-election.

He has also been in the frontline defending the party's billionaire treasurer Michael Ashcroft after questions were raised over his business dealings.

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