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Last Updated: Monday, 3 October 2005, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Tory leader watch in Blackpool
The Conservative leadership contest is reaching fever pitch in Blackpool as the party meets for its annual conference. Follow all the latest twists and turns with our leadership watch seaside special.


Contenders left to right, top to bottom: David Cameron; Kenneth Clarke; David Davis; Liam Fox; Andrew Lansley; Edward Leigh; Theresa May; Malcolm Rifkind.

The five confirmed runners in the Tory leadership stakes awake to a Daily Telegraph poll saying it's between two of them - David Davis and Ken Clarke. This view is echoed by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley who promptly rules himself out of the running. But any hopes of a head-to-head debate between the two frontrunners - or any of the other candidates - fades fast as fringe meetings fail to live up to their advance billing. Ken Clarke does his best to entertain a packed lunchtime fringe with his views on stress (he never suffers from it) and Europe (he is not secretly plotting to bounce the UK into the euro).

Party chairman Francis Maude kicks off the conference proper with a dire warning to the party to modernise or die - a message echoed a few minutes later by his close political ally Theresa May, who continues to flirt with a leadership bid of her own. Sir Malcolm Rifkind is the first of the declared contenders to address conference, with a passionate speech delivered without notes, reclaiming the party's moderate One Nation roots. Meanwhile, Liam Fox attempts to shift the debate on to Europe, saying the party should not rule out an exit from the EU.
Paperwatch: In a leader, The Daily Telegraph says the future of the Conservatives depends on whether the self-styled "Mr Heineken" David Davis, who claims to reach the parts other politicians cannot reach, is "radical moderniser, capable of implementing what others can do in theory".
New leader due to be chosen after Conservative conference in October

The FT reports Mr Davis has secured the support of wealthy backers including JCB founder Sir Anthony Bamford. Jackie Ashley, writing in The Guardian, says a Lib Dem/Tory alliance "is being taken more seriously in private". The Daily Mail says David Davis has 66 MPs backing him - one short of the total needed to ensure a place in the membership vote. Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun says Ken Clarke is not the man to lead Britain in the 21st Century. Bruce Anderson, in The Independent, says the Tories can win with David Cameron.
Latest betting: David Davis 1/2; Ken Clarke 3/1; David Cameron 10/1; Liam Fox 12/1; Sir Malcolm Rifkind 50/1 (source: politicalbetting.com)

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