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Last Updated: Monday, 28 March, 2005, 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK
No regrets on MP sacking - Howard
Howard Flight
Mr Flight is consulting lawyers
Conservative leader Michael Howard has said he has no regrets over his decision to sack a Tory MP.

Howard Flight quit as a Tory deputy chairman after apparently suggesting the party planned extra spending cuts.

But the South Downs and Arundel MP is fighting Mr Howard's decision to stop him being a Tory election candidate.

Mr Howard defended the decision at a news conference on Monday. He told reporters: "If you believe in honesty you must act on it."


Mr Flight is consulting his lawyers about his political future - he insists only local Tory members can decide to deselect him.

The Tory leadership instead says the legal position is clear and Conservative candidates have to be on its approved list.

Mr Howard wanted to talk about childcare at Monday's news conference but all the questions focused on the row over his treatment of Mr Flight.

It is not about the ability of people to express a different view
Michael Howard

He refused to say what would happen if Mr Flight's local association stuck by its MP.

But he said: "It is not about the ability of people to express a different view from my view or a different view from the leadership of the Conservative Party.

"It is about the suggestion that the Conservative Party is saying one thing before an election and intends to do something else afterwards. That is not the case."

Who decides?

But Mr Howard accused Labour of negative campaigning and said Tony Blair would "say anything and do anything to cling to power".

Earlier, Mr Flight said he wanted his local Tory association to hold an emergency general meeting (EGM).

He told BBC News: "They selected me and they, if you like, dispose of me or keep me.

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

"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.

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


The local association's honorary president, Lady O'Cathain, urged the party to settle the dispute quickly.

Lawyers needed to make clear the legal position, she said, with Mr Flight given a chance to make his case to local members at an EGM.

Lady O'Cathain told BBC News the MP had been loyal and hard working but had made a "huge mistake".

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 sidestepped questions about claims the Tories believe a Labour "mole" secretly tape recorded Mr Flight's comments.

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

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

Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor said Mr Flight had been treated harshly.

"Whilst I disagree with his views, it seems extraordinary to sack somebody for telling the truth," he said.

It has also been revealed that Michael Howard was forced to suspend a constituency association for refusing to deselect a Conservative candidate.

Adrian Hilton was abandoned after it came to light he had suggested the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, under John Major's government, was an act of treason.

He had been brought in to fight the seat in Slough after Robert Oulds was sacked for being pictured on the internet with a range of guns, rifles and a hunting knife.

Slough Conservative Association has now been placed on "support status" and is being run from Conservative campaign headquarters, a senior party spokesman said.

Michael Howard fights to recover the political agenda

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