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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Progress on Tory leadership rules
Michael Howard
Leadership election rules must be approved by the party's convention
The Conservative Party has taken a step closer to agreeing new rules for choosing its leader.

Tory MPs backed the latest proposals from the party's board at a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee.

Under the plans, any candidate would need to win the support of at least 5% of MPs to be allowed to stand.

Constituency party chairmen would then each put forward two preferences, after consulting with their members. But only MPs would actually vote for the leader.

Voice denied?

The idea comes after MPs last month rejected the option preferred by the board and Tory leader Michael Howard.

Under this, party chairmen would vote to rank the candidates before a binding ballot of MPs.

The new plan does not involve a vote of constituency chairmen but does formalise the consultation process.

Under the current rules, introduced when William Hague was leader, MPs choose two candidates to be put to a vote of all party members.

The new plan comes after Tory deputy leader Michael Ancram on Tuesday warned that denying party members a say would not make the party more appealing to voters.

"Rather than restricting or removing the franchise, we should be looking to extend it in a way which will attract the enlistment of a much wider representation.

"To do that we must show our membership that we value them," he added.

The leadership election is currently expected to take place after the party's autumn conference.

But the rule change has to be approved by the party's convention, which includes local party chairmen, when it meets in September.


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