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Last Updated: Friday, 6 February, 2004, 21:29 GMT
Howard blocks Aitken's comeback
Jonathan Aitken
Local Tories had called for Jonathan Aitken to return as their candidate
Jonathan Aitken's plans for a comeback as a Conservative MP have been blocked by party leader Michael Howard.

Tory party members in his old Thanet South seat had raised the prospect of Mr Aitken returning as a candidate.

But Mr Howard has said the disgraced former minister has no future as a Conservative flagbearer.

Later Mr Aitken, who was jailed for 18 months in June 1999, said in a statement: "The leader has spoken. I accept his judgement with good grace."

He confirmed he will not now seek to return to Parliament.

Jonathan Aitken has very many admirable qualities but I am afraid his days as a Conservative Member of Parliament are over
Michael Howard
Conservative leader
The statement said: "We talked personally and amicably this evening. This initiative is now over.

"But I would like to thank my former constituents in South Thanet who started it and petitioned Conservative Central Office for me to return."

Mr Aitken then told BBC News 24: "The national party went one way, the local party looked like they were going in a more favourable direction from my point of view.

"But I understand the rules of the game and there's no point moaning about it."

He also ruled out standing as an independent candidate.

Earlier, the Tory leader said: "Jonathan Aitken has very many admirable qualities but I am afraid his days as a Conservative Member of Parliament are over."

'Shabby tricks'

The prospect of a return was raised when Mr Aitken said members of his former local constituency party had expressed support for his future candidacy.

But such moves were being blocked by "shabby tricks" from the Conservative Party officials, he said.

And he called on party leaders to "come out up front" if they did not want him to stand.

This call for a direct response was quickly answered - with Mr Howard's rejection of his attempt to become a candidate.

A statement from the Conservative party said there were "past activities" to be considered, before Mr Aitken could be a candidate - and procedural requirements also ruled him out.

Being condemned for perjury and pushing his daughter into the dock to make her lie for him - he cannot represent the Conservative party of today
Peter Booth, Thanet South Conservative chairman

It said he was neither on the approved list of candidates nor a member of the party for at least three months - two party qualifications.

"In any application to join the approved list, the party would be bound to take into account his previous activities and their effect on the reputation of the party," the statement said.

Mr Aitken had said more than 200 Conservative members in Thanet South had backed calls for him to stand - but the constituency chairman, Peter Booth, backed his party leader's refusal to accept Mr Aitken.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Mr Booth said: "To represent the people, they have to be able to trust you and unfortunately he broke the trust of the people."

He added: "Being condemned for perjury and pushing his daughter into the dock to make her lie for him - he cannot represent the Conservative party of today."

Mr Aitken's conviction for perjury and perverting the course of justice also meant he fell foul of a rule preventing people standing as MPs if they have been jailed for more than a year.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Mr Jonathan Aitken
"I'm a little disappointed"



SEE ALSO:
Aitken bids for Commons return
06 Feb 04  |  Politics
Harris 'approved of Aitken romance'
29 Dec 02  |  Entertainment
Aitken: Pride was my downfall
17 Jul 02  |  Politics


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