[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 19:32 GMT 20:32 UK
Tory MPs agree leadership rules
Michael Howard
Mr Howard will bid farewell as leader later this year
Conservative MPs have voted to give themselves the final say over who becomes the party's next leader.

The plan would strip grassroots members of their current power to choose their leader directly, although they would be formally consulted.

Tory backbenchers backed the plan, which is essentially a return to the previous leadership election rules, when they voted on eight options.

The party will vote on the election rule changes in September.

PREFERRED ELECTION SYSTEM
Candidates need support of 10% of MPs to run
Grass roots members consulted on their views
Ballots of MPs decide final result

There will be a ballot on the rules at the Conservative national convention, which includes Tory association chairmen and chairwomen. Michael Howard has said he wants the new rules in place before he steps down as leader.

His predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith, was the only Conservative leader elected under the current system, where MPs narrow the choice down to two before Tory members across the country decide.

Now MPs want to return to a system where they have the final say after consulting their local Tory associations.

They rejected a proposal where local branch chiefs would vote to show their preferences before the final election by MPs - the option favoured by the Tory leadership.

Speed-up calls

The plan was recommended by the executive of the backbench 1922 Committee.

It was among the options put up for a non-binding vote at a meeting of the committee on Wednesday which lasted only 15 minutes.

POTENTIAL TORY LEADERSHIP CONTENDERS:
Kenneth Clarke
David Davis
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Liam Fox
Alan Duncan
David Willetts
Theresa May
Tim Yeo

A Tory spokesman said: "This result will be fed into the consultation process and the 1922 executive will now meet with the board of the party to discuss the way forward from here.

"There were no calls for an earlier leadership contest and the parliamentary party have endorsed an option which requires constitutional change and therefore the timetable originally envisaged."

On Mr Howard's timetable, the leadership election would not happen until after the party's autumn conference.

Former Tory frontbencher Ann Widdecombe is among those who want the process speeded up, saying it would be a bad idea to turn the conference into a contest.

Dinosaurs?

A BBC survey last month polled Tory chairmen in the 197 Tory-held seats.

Of the 66 chairmen who responded, 36 said party members should not have the final say.

But John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, predicted Tory members would leave the party if they lose their leadership vote.

"It means the one little bit of democracy that they had in the party has been taken away," he said.

"It's the party looking backwards towards the days of deference and dinosaurs, not looking forward to the 21st century."

But ex-MP Philip Oppenheim argued the party membership was unrepresentative of the UK population and did not know the leadership candidates.

Thatcher plea

Former Tory Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher on Tuesday urged Tories to return to first principles and "get on with it" as they tried to rebuild after the election.

Party chairman Francis Maude is warning the party not to ditch its underlying principles as Labour had to do.

He told the Centre for Policy Studies: "The doctrines of 'clear blue water' and 'the middle ground' are equally dangerous seductions.

"Both are wrong and for the same reason - that they require us to define our positions by reference to our opponents rather than by reference to our beliefs."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Baroness Thatcher arrive at the dinner in her honour



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific