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Alan Clark on road to Commons

Alan Clark, the eccentric former defence minister in Margaret Thatcher's government, has cleared the first hurdle in his bid to re-enter the House of Commons.

The former MP for Plymouth Sutton is among six candidates to be shortlisted tonight to replace Sir Nicholas Scott in the Chelsea and Kensington constituency. The final election will be held on Thursday.

But at Westminster, some MPs were tipping Patricia Morris, a financial consultant, who is highly regarded as a bright, gutsy speaker. Sarah Whitehouse, a runner-up to Archie Norman for the Sevenoaks seat, is also on the shortlist.

Winston Churchill and David Harris, both existing Tory MPs, did not reach the shortlist, but the other hopefuls include Hugo Summerson, the former MP for Walthamstow, north east London.

A barrister and adviser to the Euro-sceptics, Martin Howe, is on the shortlist with a local councillor, Daniel Moylan. Mr Howe is a nephew of the former Chancellor, Lord Howe.

Meanwhile, the party leadership is preparing for Sir George Gardiner to be sacked as Tory MP for Reigate by his constituency. Sir George, a leading Euro-sceptic and former leader of the Thatcherite 92 Group, survived one attempt to oust him by his constituency last year after the Chief Whip, Alastair Goodlad, and other senior figures in the party rallied round to his cause.

A senior source last night said there would be no attempt to help Sir George a second time. "It's now entirely up to his constituency, but we are not helping".