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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 13:25 GMT
Clarke rules out leadership bid
Ken Clarke
Clarke faces the cameras on Friday
Former chancellor Ken Clarke has said he will not challenge Michael Howard for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Speaking outside his London home on Friday morning, Mr Clarke became the latest high profile Tory to say he would not join the leadership contest.

He and Mr Howard had met for talks at Westminster on Thursday evening.

I'm not going to give up any other of my bad habits but coming second in Conservative leadership elections is something I don't intend to do
Ken Clarke

With nominations for the leadership closing next Thursday, Mr Howard is the frontrunner to succeed Iain Duncan Smith - ousted by Tory MPs in a narrow confidence vote defeat on Wednesday.

So far he is the only candidate in the contest.

'Broader appeal'

In their talks, Mr Clarke is understood to have sought clarification on the ex-home secretary's plans.

On Friday, he said: "All my friends know I am not minded to stand again.

"I'm not going to give up any other of my bad habits but coming second in Conservative leadership elections is something I don't intend to do.

Michael Howard
Stephen Dorrell
Ex-health secretary
Liam Fox
Shadow health secretary
Oliver Letwin
Shadow home secretary
David Davis
Shadow deputy prime minister
Michael Ancram
Shadow foreign secretary
Tim Yeo
Shadow trade secretary
Michael Portillo
Ex-defence secretary

"So I shall support whoever emerges as leader but I'm not standing myself."

Mr Clarke said he looked forward to supporting Mr Howard, his friend since they were at Cambridge University together in the 1960s, if he became leader.

"I particularly welcome what Michael said about leading from the centre and I hope to see that put into practice," he said.

He argued the party had "lurched too far to the right" in opposition and he was pleased Mr Howard wanted to broaden the party's appeal.

He revealed he had voted against Mr Duncan Smith in Tuesday's confidence vote, but said he had played no part in organising his downfall.

'United force'

Despite his warm comments, he ruled out joining a Howard shadow cabinet.

In an interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Mr Clarke told BBC News 24's Head to Head programme the media would continually try to find differences between him and Mr Howard if he returned to the front bench.

Mr Howard said he looked forward to working with Mr Clarke to help bring the Conservatives to office.

"Ken Clarke's comments are further evidence of the party's determination to create a unified force," he said.

His campaign manager, shadow health secretary Liam Fox, said there were many other ways for Mr Clarke to serve the party without being in the shadow cabinet.

Portillo endorsement

On Thursday evening, former defence secretary Michael Portillo - having already declared he would not stand for the leadership himself - publicly endorsed the shadow chancellor's bid.

Nominations now open for leadership race
6 November: Nominations close
11 November: First leadership ballot of MPs
Iain Duncan Smith remains caretaker leader until successor chosen

Mr Portillo told BBC One's This Week programme he did not expect to be asked to serve in a shadow cabinet under Mr Howard, whose campaign he predicted would be unopposed.

Among other leading Tories to have declared they will not stand against Mr Howard are shadow deputy prime minister David Davis, shadow trade secretary Tim Yeo and shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram.

Former cabinet minister John Redwood has also said he will not put himself forward.

Party chairman Theresa May has also ruled herself out, according to her office.

Mr Howard announced his candidature saying he wanted a party "for all Britain and all Britons", and would lead the party "from its centre".

Tax cuts?

Shadow education secretary Damian Green, who backed Mr Clarke in 2001 said Mr Clarke had been discussing with Mr Howard how he and other senior Tories could help the party recover.

"We are doing far more than swallowing our differences - we are realising what unites us," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Mr Howard followed up his campaign launch speech by fleshing out his ambitions and the direction the Tory Party would take under him.

He would not woo voters with "unspecified promises of tax cuts", he said in an interview with the Sun newspaper.

Mr Howard was looking forward to taking on Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying: "I'm up for it. I'm very excited. This is the turning point."

Some grass roots Tories have complained they will get no say if there is only one candidate, but party board member Raymond Monbiot they would get a vote to endorse Mr Howard.

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"Michael Howard has much to smile about"

Ken Clarke
"I really had no intention of standing"

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