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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK

UK Politics

Howard turns himself in

Howard never failed to woo the Tory faithful at conference time

Michael Howard, who is leaving the Tory frontbench after 14 years, will be best remembered for his forthright and uncompromising stance on crime while home secretary.

It was while serving under Prime Minister John Major that he issued what was to become the famous rallying cry - "prison works" - and ended suspects' right to silence.

Although his tough stance on law and order played well at Tory conferences, his polices were often toned down by the House of Lords and were strongly criticised by the legal profession.

He spectacularly failed to win the Tory leadership when John Major stepped down in 1997, coming last in a field of five candidates after his campaign was scuppered by a few choice words from his former Home Office junior, Ann Widdecombe.

[ image: Ann Widdecombe stopped Howard in his tracks]
Ann Widdecombe stopped Howard in his tracks
Speaking in a Commons debate Miss Widdecombe finished off Mr Howard's leadership chances with just half a sentence.

He had, she said, "something of the night about him".

He eventually lost out to the man who had, at one point, agreed to campaign under him, the former Welsh Secretary William Hague.

Michael Howard was born into a Jewish family in south Wales in 1941.

After attending grammar school he went to Cambridge University where he enjoyed a stint as president of the Union in 1962. After graduating he was called to the Bar.

He entered Parliament at the third attempt, taking the seat of Folkestone and Hythe during Baroness Thatcher's landslide election victory in 1983.

His ministerial career got off to a rapid start. By 1985 he was a junior minister at the Department of Trade and Industry.

He was promoted further once John Major took over from Baroness in 1990, serving as employment and environment minister, before finally becoming home secretary in 1993.

It was while in that post Michael Howard attracted a wide range of criticisms both from professional bodies and even his Tory predecessors.

His plans to remove the right to silence came in for strong criticism from judges.

His proposed reforms of the police force drew fire from former Tory Home Secretary Sir Willie Whitelaw who said they would politicise the police "to an unacceptable degree".

After losing out to William Hague in the Tory leadership contest he was handed the post of shadow foreign secretary where he has relished attacking the often embattled Robin Cook.

He recently delighted his enemies by spending a night in Brixton Prison for charity.

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