Fowler backs local vote in election contest

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The Independent Online
A former Conservative Party chairman last night backed moves to give chairmen of the party's associations a fifth of the votes in its leadership election.

Norman Fowler gave his support to a proposal by Robin Hodgson, chairman of the voluntary arm of the party, the National Union, to give 20 per cent of the ballot to constituencies.

There was also growing support for delaying the leadership election by a couple of weeks to enable the chairmen of Tory associations to have a say in the choice of the new leader, pending more radical changes.

A separate offer from Tom King, a former defence secretary, to stand as caretaker leader of the party was rejected by John Major and the camps surrounding the main candidates for the leadership.

Meanwhile, Michael Howard tried to shore up his collapsing leadership challenge by letting it be known he would subject himself to a second election if elected as leader of the Conservative Party by the 164 Tory MPs.

Friends said he would stand if new rules were introduced for a one-member one-vote franchise of the whole party. "He is personally attracted to one-member one-vote," one said.

There appeared to be unstoppable support growing for a widening of the franchise after the election. Edward Leigh, a right-wing MP, said he was standing for the chairmanship of the 1922 Committee, pledging to support one-member one-vote selection.