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Last Updated: Monday, 28 March, 2005, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Ousted MP continues Tory battle
Howard Flight MP
Mr Flight wants his local party to decide his future
Sacked Tory MP Howard Flight has renewed his attack on the decision to oust him - saying it is democratically and constitutionally wrong.

Conservative leader Michael Howard says the Arundel and South Downs MP cannot stand for the Tories at the election.

Mr Flight is consulting his lawyers as he tries to save his career. He says only local Tories can deselect him.

He quit as Tory deputy chairman after apparently suggesting the party was planning extra spending cuts.

Who decides?

Mr Flight's stance sets up a battle which could end up in court over where authority lies in the party.

The Tory leadership says Conservative candidates have to be on its approved list.

But Mr Flight warns the party could lose his seat at the election if it ousts him. He insists only the local members who chose him can decide through an extraordinary general meeting.

Michael Howard is determined to change the mood of cynicism that this government has induced
Lord Heseltine
Ex-deputy prime minister

He told BBC News: "I have a loyalty to them, they selected me and they, if you like, dispose of me or keep me.

"I am advised that that is the correct constitutional position."

Mr Flight expects to have his barrister's advice about his legal position late on Monday or on Tuesday and says local party officials are arranging an extraordinary general meeting.

He added: "We are a democratic party... and I think my members feel very strongly indeed that it is ultimately their job to decide who they want as a candidate."

The local association has begun looking for a new candidate but Mr Flight says they have to deselect him first.

'Terrible let-down'

Mr Howard has defended his decision to withdraw the party whip from Mr Flight, calling his gaffe a "terrible let-down".

He had "a duty" to do what he thought was "the right thing for the party and the right thing for the country," he told the Sunday Telegraph.

"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," he added.

Ian McCartney, Labour chairman
Mr McCartney says spy claims are a diversion tactic

On Monday, Labour chairman Ian McCartney claimed Mr Flight has simply told the truth about Tory plans.

"Howard Flight opened the Tories' locker and inside we find plans for massive cuts," he said.

At a news conference, Mr McCartney repeatedly refused to comment on reports the Tories believe a Labour "mole" had tape recorded Mr Flight's comments to Tory activists.

He called the spying claims a "desperate diversion attempt" and denied Labour was using "dirty tricks".

Bugs?

There are newspaper reports that the Tories have checked their offices for bugs because of fears about listening devices.

The party refused to confirm the claims, saying it did not comment on its security procedures.

Former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit has criticised the action against Mr Flight.

He told the Independent on Sunday it could "inflate a storm in a teacup" rather than "choke off" Labour and Lib Dem attacks.

But ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine backed the move.

He told BBC News: "Michael Howard is determined to change the mood of cynicism that this government has induced in which it is more or less assumed that politicians don't tell the truth."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why Howard Flight is fighting on



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