Portillo faces 100 challengers for seat

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MICHAEL PORTILLO will face competition from more than 100 rivals to succeed Alan Clark as Conservative MP for Kensington and Chelsea.

As the nominations for one of the safest Tory seats in the country closed yesterday with a deluge of applications, members of the local association warned Conservative Central Office against attempting to impose a candidate on them.

Mr Portillo is seen as the front-runner for the seat in his journey back to active politics which, his supporters hope, will eventually see him become the next Conservative leader.

The fight for the nomination promises to be colourful, with the journalist Peter Hitchens throwing his hat into the ring as the "real candidate of the right". Others seeking the nomination are Rupert Allason, former MP for Torbay, better known as the espionage author Nigel West; Hugo Swire, a former Guards officer who works at Sotheby's; and former minister Angela Rumbold. There is also a clutch of young women candidates including John Major's former press secretary and former journalist, Sheila Gunn

Nicholas Padget-Brown, chairman of the local Tory association, said: "The important thing to understand about the Conservative Party is that decisions are taken locally. I am sure we will have a number of good, high-profile candidates but at the end of the day it will be a matter for members to decide."