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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"This time there will be at least one loser"
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Michael Portillo supporter Archie Norman
is a defender of th current voting system
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Andrew Lansley
is prepared to speak out about the failings in the election process
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Wednesday, 11 July, 2001, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
MPs face Tory vote pressure
Michael Portillo:
Michael Portillo: Winner of the first ballot
More senior Conservatives have called for changes to the party's leadership election rules, as Tory MPs faced heavy wooing for their votes ahead of Thursday's re-run of the opening ballot.

First round votes
Michael Portillo - 49
Iain Duncan Smith - 39
Ken Clarke - 36
David Davis - 21
Michael Ancram - 21
Edward McMillan-Scott, leader of the party's MEPs, said the Tories would be "humiliated" if grassroots members were not allowed to vote on the merits of all five candidates in the race.

And former deputy prime minister Lord Howe predicted defections from the party if they were not given a chance to vote for Ken Clarke in the final run-off ballot stage.

The demands for the rules - only introduced in 1998 and never put into practice before now - to be reformed came as furious horsetrading was underway as contenders sought to wrest support from their rivals.

Tie for last place

The calls for change followed the air of confusion that surrounded Tuesday's opening ballot.

What was meant to be a knock-out poll was declared null after two candidates, Michael Ancram and David Davis, tied for last place and both refused to stand down.

Edward McMillan-Scott
Edward McMillan-Scott: Abandon MPs-only ballots
The five contenders will be whittled down to two by the 166-strong parliamentary Conservative party; grassroots members will only then get their say, choosing the final winner.

Lord Howe, former Conservative deputy prime minister, forecast defections from the party if Ken Clarke is not on the ballot paper presented to all members.

He reminded his party of the way MPs chose outgoing leader William Hague over Mr Clarke in 1997.

"I think that if twice running the candidate preferred by the party in the country and by a much larger proportion of the population as a whole is not included in the final choice there will be a grave and extensive disenchantment, disillusion and I dare say substantial defections from the party," he warned.

Humiliation danger

Earlier, Mr McMillan-Scott said all five candidates should go to the party-wide vote.

"I don't want the party to be humiliated," he said. "There is no reason at all why the choice should not be put to the party at large."

Ken Clarke
Ken Clarke: Let members vote on him, Lord Howe has urged
But shadow environment secretary Archie Norman, a supporter of frontrunner Michael Portillo, argued that it would be "disastrous" not to ballot MPs and to leave the decision only to party members.

"It is critical that any leader, to be successful, has to be able to unite the party and bring those sides together," he said.

'Eviction' looms

Criticism over the disarray caused by Tuesday's unexpected dead heat for last place spread to prime minister's questions in the Commons.

Standing in for Prime Minister Tony Blair, Commons Leader Robin Cook joked that comparisons between the contest and Channel 4's popular Big Brother TV programme were unfair.

"At least when they have a vote on Big Brother, somebody gets kicked out," Mr Cook joked to MPs.

This time round, if Thursday's ballot again produces a tie for last place, both losers will be ejected from the contest.

Further successive knock-out ballots will then take place to produce the final shortlist of two, on which party members will vote by postal ballot.

The eventual winner will be announced on 12 September.

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See also:

11 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Tory hopefuls scramble for votes
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo under fire as Tory vote opens
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Portillo payments under fire
10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Dead heat forces Tory poll re-run
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