Howard in attack on 'weak' Major

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The Independent Online
Michael Howard has made a thinly veiled attack on John Major for weak leadership in an attempt to answer the allegations by Ann Widdecombe, the former Home Office minister, that he is "dangerous".

He says that he may "dangerous", but insists that it is a sign of his strong leadership. He adds that the Tory party has been plagued by splits and weak leadership, and needs strong leadership to rebuild its fortunes.

Mr Howard says: "Endlessly splitting the difference just leads to endless splits ... The next party leader must be prepared to take decisions which ruffle a few feathers and provoke the occasional tantrum when the situation requires.

"It will be a hard road back to power and if (though I wouldn't have put it like that myself) I am indeed dangerous stuff that may be part of what's required to turn the tables on our new Labour masters."

The former home secretary's implied criticism of Mr Major's leadership, in the Spectator magazine, threatens to increase the impression of open warfare in the Tory ranks, following the vendetta being waged against Mr Howard by Miss Widdecombe.

The former minister, who is committed to blocking Mr Howard's campaign for the leadership, is expected to meet the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, today to seek permission to make a personal statement accusing Mr Howard of misleading Parliament over the sacking of Derek Lewis, the former prisons' chief.

Her allegations centre on Mr Howard's denial in the Commons that he threatened to order Mr Lewis to suspend the governor of Parkhurst prison.

Mr Howard refused on Tuesday under repeated questioning on BBC Television to deny that he had made the threat.

He is seeking to shrug off the allegations by Miss Widdecombe, and last night led a charm offensive with his wife, Sandra, a former model, by holding a reception for Tory MPs at the home of Jonathan Aitken, a former minister, which is to be Mr Howard's headquarters.

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