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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 01:32 GMT 02:32 UK
Howard defends action over Flight
Howard Flight MP
Mr Flight had the whip withdrawn on Friday
Tory leader Michael Howard has defended his decision to oust Sussex MP Howard Flight, saying he was acting in the interests of the party and the country.

Mr Howard said the decision had been an "unpleasant one", but he could not afford to keep an MP who misrepresented Conservative plans.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Howard said Mr Flight's gaffe was a "terrible let-down".

Mr Flight was deselected over comments he made on Tory spending plans.

Mr Howard told the newspaper he has "a duty" to do what he thinks is "the right thing for the party and the right thing for the country".

"It's a terrible let-down when someone goes and behaves like this," he said.

"What I can't have is someone misrepresenting my view, misrepresenting what we do in government and suggesting that we say one thing in private and another thing in public."

'Hidden agenda'

Mr Flight has said it is up to Tory party members of the Arundel and South Downs constituency where he is the MP to decide whether he should stay on.

He resigned as deputy chairman of the party on Thursday after saying the Conservatives would make more budget cuts than admitted if elected.

Tory leader Michael Howard withdrew the whip from Mr Flight on Friday.

I regret that a spin has been put on an answer
Howard Flight

Health Secretary John Reid said the MP was sacked for telling the truth, while the Lib Dems' Charles Kennedy said it showed a Tory "hidden agenda".

Mr Flight told the BBC on Saturday that any decision over his political future as an MP should be made by local members.

"Constitutionally, an executive committee meeting needs to be held, and potentially even an extraordinary general meeting, at which I should be called to account and they should decide what they want to do," Mr Flight said.

"You can't do it from a diktat from Central Office.

"They (the local association) may well decide that they don't want me but it's got to be done properly," Mr Flight said.

He has refused to stand as an independent candidate, saying he did not believe in "empty gestures".

Labour and the Tories continue their war of words

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