Howard to quit in October

Contributed by editor on Sep 22, 2005 - 07:12 PM


Folkestone and Hythe MP Michael Howard has made clear that he plans to resign as  party leader after the Tories' Blackpool conference next month - but will remain in charge until a successor has been elected.

In a newspaper interview, Mr Howard signalled his intention to officially quit on or just after the four day annual conference concludes in Blackpool on October 6, paving the way for the leadership poll to get underway after that.

"I will resign probably immediately after the party conference. The leadership election will then take place," he said.

His departure will come after his keynote conference speech, which he will use to appeal for party unity and for the changes needed to win back the trust of the voters in time for the next general election.

"My message will be that the Conservative Party can have a great future. It is no accident that the party has been in government for so long in the past and it is because our values are in tune with the essential values of the British people. But the people will only trust the Conservative Party with government again when we have truly proved ourselves worthy of that trust. That involves a great deal of work to make sure we are totally in tune with people's needs and aspirations, with the kind of government and society they want, which will really tackle the problems they face… not just talk."

Mr Howard also issued a further appeal to the party to back changes in the leadership election rules transferring the final decision to Conservative MPs. The results of a ballot among MPs, MEPs, some peers, and leaders of the voluntary party will be declared on Tuesday, September 27.

"Being Leader of the Opposition becomes almost impossible if you don't have the support of your MPs. If fewer than half voted for the new leader, that makes life very, very difficult," he said.