Election candidate: Hague aide chosen for Tatton

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The Independent Online
TATTON CONSERVATIVES have selected a candidate with traditional Tory credentials to win back the seat lost by disgraced former MP Neil Hamilton.

George Osborne, William Hague's speech-writer, is privately educated, a graduate of Magdalen College, Oxford, and married to the daughter of the Tory grandee Lord Howell.

The Tory leader's 27-year-old political secretary is regarded as a high- flyer among party insiders who hope he will finally put an end to the damaging cash-for-questions affair.

But Tatton Conservatives are still divided over Mr Hamilton. His supporters made a failed attempt to delay the selection meeting in the hope that the former MP may be able to return.

Celebrating his selection yesterday, Mr Osborne pledged to leave the "wrongs" of the past behind him but admitted he would still treat the formerly fifth-safest Tory seat in the country as a marginal.

Martin Bell, the independent MP who won the seat in Cheshire in 1997 on an anti-sleaze ticket with an 11,000 majority, has confirmed that he will only serve for one term.

"Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened here, I'm not going to talk about them. That is in the past. I'm here to talk about the future."

Mr Osborne, a special adviser to the agriculture ministry during the BSE crisis, has been Mr Hague's political secretary since June 1997.

Apart from speech-writing, he is responsible for briefing Mr Hague for his weekly exchanges with Tony Blair at Prime Minister's Question Time.

"His only real downfall so far has been to be taunted for playing too much croquet at Oxford," a friend said yesterday.

In Thursday night's selection, Mr Osborne beat three other shortlisted contenders for the seat.

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