Redwood glee as Right regroups

Tory leadership: Howard and Lilley trail in last as first ballot of 164 MPs puts Hague in pole position to beat Clarke
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The Independent Online
It was a surreal scene on the green outside the Palace of Westminster yesterday as the Redwood camp danced with delight at beating Michael How- ard and Peter Lilley for third place, while their hero did his fourth television interview.

Julian Brazier kissed Angela Browning. "I cannot stop smiling in a rather inane way," said another member of the camp.

"It suits you," said another Redwood supporter.

David Wilshire, the acting chief whip of the Redwood party, said their leader had been in touch with Mr Howard and Mr Lilley to offer them places in his campaign team.

Adding to the air of unreality, Michael Portillo's fan club was strolling around the green in sombreros. A four-piece guitar group strummed Mexican love songs to the man who missed out on the leadership contest because he lost his seat at the election.

John Redwood appeared to be the only man at Westminster who was not surprised by the result. "Why did nobody believe me?" he said, his arms wide open.

In the background, Michael Heseltine looked thunderstruck as he prepared for another interview. Lord Archer, a Lilley supporter, said: "All I said was there would be one big surprise. I wasn't expecting that one."

The Howard and Lilley supporters, confused and downcast by the results, scattered to the corners of the Commons to discuss what they could do to rescue something from the wreck- age of their campaigns.

One former minister said: "They can't assume our votes are going to transfer to Redwood. I voted with my head for Howard. I'm going to vote with my heart in the second ballot, and vote for Clarke."

The result was announced by Archie Hamilton, chairman of the 1922 Committee, to Conservative backbench MPs in the committee room at 5.19 pm."Kenneth Clarke 49; William Hague 41; Michael Howard 23; Peter Lilley 24; John Redwood 27. As no candidate has received the required number of votes, there will be a second ballot on 17 June"

The counting had been quicker than the last time, when John Major won, because there were only 164 ballot papers to be counted. Mr Major voted by proxy after the death of his mother-in-law.

His audience was stunned. They raced out bemused by what they had just heard ..."I suppose it means more parties," said one former senior whip.

One senior Tory MP said that he had been persuading all his friends to vote Redwood in order to "screw" the Europhiles in the belief that the Left would win.

"We will take to the hills and fight a guerrilla war," he said. "It's a council of despair."