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Monday, 22 November, 1999, 09:45 GMT
Who now for London Tories?

A guide to the Tories who could replace Lord Archer as the party's candidate for the mayor of London election in May 2000. The three runners-up in the recent selection process may all rejoin the race, while a number of famous names including athlete Sebastian Coe and former Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley are also being mentioned.

Steven Norris

During the previous selection process, Mr Norris was the clear second choice but he lost heavily to Lord Archer when it came to a straight fight between the pair.

Steven Norris: Runner-up last time around
The former Conservative transport minister for London claimed he was the most experience candidate to become mayor of London. Mr Norris stood down as MP for Epping Forest at the last election and was the director of the Road Haulage Association until August 1999.

The Tories say they hope Mr Norris will decide to stand again, but his own colourful past could pose problems for the party.

Aged 54, he became notorious for a succession of affairs during his 30-year marriage and is now divorcing his wife, Vicky.

He is set to marry Emma Courtney, 20 years his junior and the fourth of his five mistresses, with whom he had a child last year.

His policies included investment in London Underground and improvement to buses and support for London Grammar schools. He also called for a civil revolution with better architecture on new housing estates.

Archie Norman

A millionaire businessman turned MP, the former Asda boss has not ruled out suggestions he could be the man who would reopen the Tory contest to become its mayoral candidate.

Archie Norman: "Flattered" by interest
Currently the Conservative's European spokesman and viewed as close to party leader William Hague, when the prospect was raised Mr Norman said only: "It is a very flattering suggestion."

The MP for Tunbridge Wells has taken on the task of restructuring the Tories under Mr Hague, promising cuts of 3m and 50 jobs. He says: "Management is not a popularity contest."

He attended both Cambridge and Harvard, before starting work at McKinseys, where Mr Hague also worked. His most recent triumph was to negotiate Asda's 7bn takeover by the US chain Wal-Mart earlier this year.

While likely to appeal to London Tories looking for a new candidate to lead them out of trouble, Mr Norman also fits the criteria for the post originally set out by Tony Blair and could seriously worry the eventual Labour contender.

Virginia Bottomley

The former health secretary has admitted in the past that she is no great fan of life on the backbenches and might be tempted to pitch her lot in at the surprise second chance to stand as Tory candidate for London mayor.

She offered few strong clues when quizzed on the subject two days after Lord Archer announced his decision to quit, saying only that she was "very happy in Surrey South West" - her constituency.

Married to fellow Tory MP Peter, Mrs Bottomley has a home in Smith Square, just minutes away from both Conservative Central Office and Westminster.

She would be likely to be a popular candidate with voters, if the Tories selected her, although some resentment at the internal reforms she presided over in the National Health Service could still count against her.

Robert Blackman

A councillor in Brent since 1986, Mr Blackman, 43, was born and still lives in Wembley. He was the council leader between 1991 and 1994 and has since led the Conservative opposition group.

He has previously contested the seats of Brent South in 1992 and Bedford in 1997 for the Conservatives.

Mr Blackman stood to become the Tory mayor candidate on his track record of "getting things done" in Brent, where he says the Tories transformed the borough.

The party lowered council tax for six years in a row and cleared 61m debt, although they too were hit by scandals of their own.

Mr Blackman would like to see an outer circle line in the tube system, as well as more car-friendly policies. He made it to the final four in the mayor selection process last time.

Andrew Boff

Mr Boff, aged 41, stood as European election candidate for London 1994 and 1999 before trying to become the Conservative candidate for London mayor. He too survived to the final four before being knocked out.

He has considerable experience in local government in London in Hillingdon where he served as a councillor between 1982 and 1994 and as council leader between 1990 and 1992, but entered the contest as a relative unknown.

The media revealed this summer that Mr Boff is the nephew of Roy "Little Legs" Smith, who was once employed by the East End gangsters the Kray twins.

Mr Boff is European systems manager for GT Interactive.

Sebastian Coe

The former Olympic sprinter turned Tory MP, Mr Coe would provide a dash of celebrity in the London mayor race although he is probably less known in his new career.

After losing his seat in the 1997 election, he became Conservative leader William Hague's political secretary.

In that role, he received detailed information from Lord Archer's unofficial biographer, Michael Crick, suggesting the peer would not be fit to become the party's mayoral candidate. His only response was to send a short note stating: "I acknowledge receipt of your letter and its contents have been noted."

Mr Coe was recently named in the shortlist for a different prize: the only British contender for athlete of the millennium.

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See also:
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Hague left fuming as Archer falls
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Archer's legal dilemma
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Tories seek Archer replacement
22 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Repay money, newspaper tells Archer
22 Nov 99 |  UK
Hague suffers Archer fallout
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Archer quits mayoral race

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