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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Flight to end battle with Howard
Howard Flight MP
Howard Flight was deselected after comments about Tory spending
Sacked Tory MP Howard Flight has signalled that he is to abandon his fight with party leader Michael Howard.

The Arundel and South Downs MP is set to tell constituency activists he will not stand as an independent candidate at the 5 May General Election.

Mr Flight, who had represented the area since 1997, resigned as party deputy chairman after comments about Tory spending cuts were taped and released.

Michael Howard then banned the MP from standing as a Tory election candidate.

'Media spin'

That decision has caused anger in the constituency, with many members complaining the party leader's action was draconian.

The Conservative Party is bigger than one man
Howard Flight

Mr Flight had been calling for a meeting of his local Conservative Association at which he would be reaffirmed as candidate or de-adopted, but his bid was unsuccessful.

He had said his lawyers had told him only local Tory members, not the party's leadership, could decide to remove him as their candidate.

But now the MP will make it clear at an association meeting, called to choose a replacement candidate, that he no longer intends to continue the fight.

"Above all I would not want to be responsible for tearing apart the Arundel and South Downs Constituency Association," he will tell Wednesday's meeting.

"I apologise for the trouble which this media spin incident has caused you all, and especially to the officers who, I appreciate, have been placed in a very difficult position."

'Lifelong Conservatives'

He will tell members he had stood his ground because he felt he had been treated unfairly, and because there were "important underlying issues of Conservative Party governance, which I believe must be addressed after we win the general election".

But he will say that given the imminent general election, he could "understand the reasons for the reaction and stance which the party leadership has taken".

He will say: "The Conservative Party is bigger than one man: Christabel [Mr Flight's wife] and I have, therefore, concluded that, as lifelong, committed Conservatives, I could not stand as an independent."

He wants the Conservatives to win the election, but appreciates that "it is now clearly necessary to close down this episode", he will add.


Mr Flight was a key architect of Tory economic policy and was involved in setting up the James review into public spending, which identified 35bn of savings.

He was banned from standing as an election candidate after hinting further tax and spending cuts would be possible once the Conservatives were in power.

A shortlist of three replacement candidates was drawn up by the association's executive committee on Monday from a long list of 10 contenders.

Members will choose from Anne Marie Morris, Laura Sandys and Nick Herbert, director of the think-tank Reform.

In his speech, Mr Flight will say he wishes the new candidate well.