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1965: Sir Alec steps down from top of Tory tree

The leader of the Opposition, Alec Douglas-Home, has surprised colleagues by resigning from his post.

The former Conservative Prime Minister made the announcement at a news conference at Conservative Central Office, London.

Sir Alec - as he is known, after renouncing his title to enter the House of Commons - says he made the decision after spending the weekend at one of his homes in Scotland.

"I have no regrets and shall enjoy my future life"

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Some Conservative MPs blame press criticism for their leader's sudden departure after less than two years in office.

Sir Alec said: "I have enjoyed every moment of my political career and it is part of political life that decisions have to be taken."

"I have no regrets and shall enjoy my future life just as I have enjoyed the past few years," he continued.

A new leader should be in place next week, chosen for the first time by a ballot of Conservative Members of Parliament.

Sir Alec implemented a new selection procedure after the discontent following his appointment by the retiring Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, in 1963.

The two most likely candidates are shadow Foreign Secretary Reginald Maudling and shadow Chancellor Edward Heath.

Commentators claim Mr Maudling has the broadest support within the Tory Party, whilst Mr Heath has alienated some members with his ambition, although his supporters are regarded as younger and more dynamic.

Sir Alec would not name his preferred choice and said he would serve the Conservative Party in any capacity required by the new leader.

The first election is due to take place on Tuesday, with nominations closing on Monday morning.

The winner must have an overall majority and achieve 15% more votes than any other candidate, otherwise another election will be called for Thursday, which will be won simply by a majority vote.

A third ballot will be called on the same day, if the second is inconclusive, when voters must select two choices, in order of preference.

In Context
Edward Heath went on to win the leadership contest, with the full backing of Sir Alec Douglas Home.

Sir Alec served as shadow foreign secretary for Mr Heath until the Conservatives won the 1970 general election.

He continued as foreign secretary in the Heath Government and garnered a reputation as a trusted international statesman.

Before the second general election of 1974, in October, Sir Alec left the Commons. He was given a life peerage and took up the title of Baron Home of the Hirsel.

He remained a prominent figure in the House of Lords until his death in October 1995.

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