Howard HQ set up in Aitken home

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The Independent Online
Michael Howard's election team will move into the Westminster home of Jonathan Aitken, the former Treasury minister, over the weekend, to step up his campaign for the Conservative Party leadership.

The Howard campaign will be based in Lord North Street, a few doors down from the house where, in 1995, BT engineers were spotted installing telephone lines for a possible bid for the leadership by Michael Portillo.

Mr Aitken resigned as a minister to fight allegations of sleaze, and lost his seat in the election. He has no vote, but is a close friend of the Howards. "It is very generous of him," said a campaign source.

Mr Howard and his wife, the former model Sandra Paul, have a London house, in addition to the grace and favour flat in Belgravia, where Mr Howard struck the aborted deal over champagne with William Hague to act as his running mate.

Mr Hague, who is using the Victoria offices of Jonathan Sayeed, a re- elected Tory MP and businessman, yesterday posed for photographs in his constituency in Richmond, Yorkshire. "He will be getting out of Westminster and consulting the constituencies," said one of his team. They claim that 70 per cent of constituency chairmen like Mr Hague's youth and are backing him.

Another contender, John Redwood, effectively asked fellow Euro-sceptic Bill Cash yesterday not to join the race.

Mr Cash, MP for Stone, was said to be unhappy at Mr Redwood's declared willingness to have Europhile Kenneth Clarke in his Shadow Cabinet if he wins. All he would say publicly was: "We must have clarity on the issue of Europe in the leadership."

However, when Mr Redwood was asked at a Westminster news conference about the reports, he said: "I hope I can reassure Bill that I have been entirely clear about Europe - none clearer.

"I have made crystal clear that I don't want to see the abolition of the pound."

Some Tory MPs are deeply unhappy with the candidates. One said he would have liked Iain Duncan Smith to run, but he is expected to act as Mr Redwood's campaign manager.

The election of a chairman and officers of the 1922 Committee is on 21 May. They will then organise the leadership election for mid-June.

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