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The BBC's Rory Maclean
"For the Conservatives, their mayoral selection process is at least back on track"
 real 28k

Steven Norris
"All's well that ends well"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 December, 1999, 05:27 GMT
Tories whittle down mayor shortlist

Victors: Steven Norris, left, and Andrew Boff

The Tories have narrowed the field in their internal London mayor contest to former transport minister Steven Norris and IT consultant Andrew Boff.

London Mayor
Mr Norris received 354 votes from London Tories after he appeared with five other candidates at hustings in west London on Wednesday evening.

IT consultant Mr Boff came second after polling 210 votes in the vote among approximately 1,000 Conservative activists at Holland Park School.

The two candidates will now go forward to a final postal ballot of 40,000 London Tory Party members.

Ballot papers go out on 23 December, with a decision expected to be announced in mid-January.

The four candidates dropped from the shortlist on Wednesday were Baroness Miller, Tory spokesman on London in the Lords, Baroness Hanham, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, Paul Lynch, the Tory group leader in Hounslow, and Internet businessman Mark Kotecha.

Michael Ancram: "The process was designed to be democratic"
A delighted Mr Norris said the contest "had done the Conservative party a huge amount of good".

He said: "What it has demonstrated is that we are committed to an absolutely open and democratic process."

And he said it contrasted sharply with Labour's contest to find a candidate for the election next May.

Speaking about the criticism levelled at him from members of his former Epping Forest constituency, he said: "I think we all just want to put that behind us and get on. I am very keen that we should do so."

Although Mr Norris and Mr Boff will be rivals, Mr Norris he had a "lot of respect" for Mr Boff, who was the runner-up.

"He is a good friend, he is a good local government leader and a good Conservative," he said.

Scandal fears

Mr Boff, 41, who is openly gay, said: "I am delighted that I have the opportunity to put my case before London Conservatives and hopefully I will be able to go forward to beat the Labour Party at the elections next year."

The Tory party leadership now hope a semblance of order will be restored to their chaotic selection process.

Former transport minister Mr Norris was dropped from the list of Tory mayoral hopefuls at the weekend, only to be reinstated on Tuesday.

Conservative chairman Michael Ancram and other senior Tory officials had unanimously decided to reinstate Mr Norris on the shortlist after he was initially barred over concerns about his private life.

The original decision by the party's mayoral executive unearthed a groundswell of support for Mr Norris, despite fears the party could not afford any further scandal after the revelations about Lord Archer, the previous Tory mayoral candidate.

Mr Ancram insisted that the problems caused by the original decision to bar Mr Norris had now been overcome.

Letter of protest

He said: "The process was designed to be democratic. Democracy is sometimes untidy."

Mr Norris was originally beaten to the nomination by Lord Archer in the final round of the first selection process.

When Lord Archer resigned as the Tory candidate, Mr Norris joined a new contest despite his disappointment at not being automatically selected as the party's new candidate.

Mr Norris's second exit from the contest was sparked by a letter from four senior local party officials from his former Epping Forest constituency.

The writers claimed they had planned to deselect him as their MP over his colourful private life.

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See also:
16 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Punk godfather joins mayoral race
12 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Norris: Car salesman driven to office
16 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Andrew Boff: Making an impression
14 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
The six Tory hopefuls
13 Dec 99 |  UK Politics
Labour accused of Dobson bias

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