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Long and rocky road from nowhere to Knaresborough

Norman Lamont stood on the staircase of the Majestic Hotel, Harrogate, last night looking like the cat that had got the cream, writes Colin Brown.

After months of searching for a safe Conservative seat that would have him, the former Chancellor had landed Harrogate and Knaresborough, which should last him the rest of his political career.

It was looking as though the Tory party had turned its back on the former Chancellor for his alleged disloyalty to the Government. He stood a real risk of being thrown out of Parliament with the loss of his safe Kingston- upon-Thames seat after 23 years as its MP through the vagaries of the Boundary Commission. Exactly how many seats he has applied for is as misty as his eyes looked last night on winning. The details of candidates' lists are never released by the constituencies but even his sharpest critics felt he had been unfairly treated.

He went through the depressing routine of applying for Surbiton, into which part of his seat had disappeared, to suffer a defeat by Dick Tracey, a former junior sports minister.

He was turned down at Kensington and Chelsea, and in several other seats the Tories did not even give Mr Lamont an interview. His name was linked with the Vale of York, a seat neighbouring Harrogate, and Epping Forest, where Steve Norris, the Transport Minister, is standing down.

The Lamont carpet bag was also reported to have been seen in Shropshire North, where John Biffen is retiring; Tewkesbury, a new seat; Weston-super- Mare, the seat held by Sir Jerry Wiggin; the Southend West seat of Paul Channon; and Richmond Park, a new seat in Surrey.

He was also reported to be interested in Mole Valley, Kenneth Baker's seat, and Holland with Boston, where the rebel, Sir Richard Body, had been given until 1 February to retake the Tory whip.