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Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
How to choose a Tory leader
The outgoing Tory leader and his wife
One legacy William Hague leaves behind him is a new, untested procedure for electing a leader of the Conservative Party.

The outgoing leader changed the rules himself in 1998, introducing for the first time a formal role in the process for the party rank and file.

But the process of choosing the next leader is neither smooth nor swift.

Despite the frenzy of leadership manifesto launches and campaign statements, officially the contest could not even begin until the 1922 Committee, which represents Tory backbenchers, had elected a new chairman - who acts as the returning officer for the leadership election.

Sir Michael Spicer's installation in the position of "shop steward" of the parliamentary party having taken place the formal business of electing Mr Hague's successor began.

Any Tory MP was able to throw his or her hat into the leadership ring, requiring just a proposer and seconder. Once nominations closed Tory MPs then began weeding the field out by a series of secret ballots.

When, as in this case, there were more than three contestants, the one winning the lowest number of votes in this first round is eliminated from the contest.

Then, on successive Tuesdays and Thursdays, further eliminating ballots are held until a final shortlist of two emerges.

It is only at this stage that the Tory Party at large gets involved, with a postal ballot of paid-up members choosing between the two survivors.

The "bottle-neck" to get on that final shortlist of two is the hurdle that put paid to Ann Widdecombe's leadership hopes.

Her popularity among the party rank and file was not reflected in the parliamentary party, thus ensuring the Tory grassroots would probably not have got the chance to vote for her if she had joined the leadership race.

Those contenders that have entered it are permitted to advertise in the press, provided the full commercial rate is paid. No reference to rival candidates is allowed in any adverts.

Spending by any candidate on their campaign is limited to 100,000, expenses must be detailed to the 1922 chairman and made available for inspection by party members, and no hopeful can fund their own campaign: all spending must come from donations - which must also be disclosed.



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