Dramatic vote hands new seat to ex-minister

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Former Minister Sir Nicholas Scott rescued his political career last night in what he admitted had been a "close-run thing", when he was chosen to represent the safest Conservative seat in the country.

Sir Nicholas, 62, won the vote on the third and final ballot of 560 Tory members in the new Kensington and Chelsea constituency, beating a strong challenge from another former Minister, Michael Fallon.

Sir Nicholas is due to make a court appearance on Tuesday on charges of drink-driving, failing to stop after an accident and driving without due care and attention.

The charges have led to considerable grumbling among local Tory members about his record as an MP, but a large turnout of his supporters overcame the efforts of younger, more right-wing members.

Sir Nicholas said: "It was a first-class shortlist of four very able people and it was no surprise it was a close vote. I wish all the other candidates well in future."

A Minister for 13 years, Sir Nicholas' career had appeared to be drawing to a reluctant close. He fell out with his daughter, Victoria, last year over civil rights for the disabled. As Minister for the Disabled he had to admit to misleading MPs when he denied his department had been involved in wrecking tactics designed to kill a disability Bill.

Victoria, a lobbyist for rights for disabled people, denounced her father's actions and added ignominy to injury by joining the calls for him to resign.

Sir Nicholas was finally returned to the backbenches in John Major's Cabinet reshuffle two months later and earned the consolation of a knighthood.

He has long been a mainstay of the "wet" wing of the Tory party, however, last night Sir Nicholas made overtures to the Right, speaking of the "undesirability of entering a single European currency" and quoting approvingly from the ministerial speeches of John Redwood, the Prime Minister's challenger for the Tory leadership.

Mr Fallon, 43, mounted a right-wing challenge for the nomination for the new seat created by the Boundary Commissioners in a merger of Sir Nicholas' Chelsea seat and the neighbouring Kensington. Mr Fallon was a Member of the No Turning Back group of MPs formed to defend the Thatcher Revolution in the mid-1980s.