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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
John Townend: A life-long Tory
John Townend
Mr Townend is standing down at the election
John Townend has been an outspoken member of the Conservative Party since he was first elected to the House of Commons in 1979.

A right-winger, he has consistently courted controversy but has been regarded as an influential backbench MP and has had significant support within the party.

England must be reconquered for the English

John Townend
A life-long Tory, he became chairman of his local Young Conservative organisation at the age of 17 in 1951.

He rose quickly up the ranks of the local party and was elected to Hull City Council at the age of 21.

Within nine years he was leader of Humberside Tory councillors and became leader of the county council when the party regained control in 1977.

Two years later he was selected to fight the safe Tory seat of the long-serving Richard Wood in Bridlington and won with a commanding majority of more than 15,000 votes.

A keen Thatcherite he has spoken out on the need for small government and low taxation.

Well-known views

But it is his views on race for which he will be best remembered when he stands down as an MP at the general election - and not just because of his latest remarks.

In 1984, he suggested that "foreigners" employed in service industries should be replaced by unemployed Britons.

In 1989, he urged the deportation of Muslims who opposed Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses saying: "England must be reconquered for the English".

He also criticised a government bill that protected individuals from non-Christian religions from discrimination in the workplace.

His outspoken views and record on race prompted an invitation to speak to the British National Party the same year - an invite he turned down.

And in 1990, Mr Townend was among 11 Tory MPs to vote against a government bill to allow 50,000 Hong Kong Chinese families to live in the UK.

Outspoken remarks about unmarried mothers, homosexuals and Europe have seen him hit the headlines on various occasions throughout his 22-year parliamentary career.

His views may have denied John Townend a ministerial post during the Tories' 18 years in government but they have not prevented him from wielding some power from the backbenches.

Party support

The outspoken MP has shown that he can claim personal support from some sections of the parliamentary party.

Mr Townend served as chairman of the powerful Tory finance committee at Westminster, and was also chairman of the right-wing 92 Group of Conservative MPs.

He has been elected to the party's influential 1922 committee on two occasions, both in 1992 and after the last general election.

His last victory came despite a concerted effort from some MPs to block his candidature.

However, his appeal was shown to be limited when as one of four candidates he lost out to Sir Archie Hamilton in his bid to win the highly coveted chairmanship.

Mr Townend, whose seat was re-named Yorkshire East under boundary changes in 1995, announced his decision to retire from the Commons last year.

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See also:

29 Apr 01 | UK Politics
Race row MP faces expulsion
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague rebukes Tory MP over race
22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Veteran Tory MP to step down
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