Rejected Lamont searches for seat hits the campaign trail

Selection trail: Former Chancellor fixes his sights on Chelsea constituency is expected to try Sir Nicholas Scott's Chelsea seat
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The Independent Online

Chief Political Correspondent

Norman Lamont will take his campaign for a constituency to the Conservative Party conference next week, after suffering the indignity of being turned down for a new seat.

The former Chancellor, who will be underlining his Euro-scepticism at a Thatcherite fringe meeting at the conference, made it clear last night that he had not given up his search for another seat after losing Kingston and Surbiton to Dick Tracey, a former sports minister.

His support for John Redwood, the challenger in the leadership contest against John Major, may count against him.

Mr Lamont denied it was the reason for his defeat in the selection for the Kingston and Surbiton seat, but Mr Tracey, MP for the neighbouring Surbiton constituency, said loyalty was a factor. Mr Tracey attributed his success to his loyalty for Mr Major. "There is a very strong tradition of loyalty to the leadership. They were very loyal to Margaret Thatcher. John Major is now the Prime Minister and they are very loyal to him," he said.

About 60 per cent of Mr Tracey's seat has been put into Kingston and Surbiton, and the former Chancellor suffered the embarrassment of finding the door locked when he went to attend the selection meeting.

Mr Lamont, whose own Kingston-upon-Thames seat will disappear in boundary changes, is expected to be among the contenders for Chelsea, the seat held by Sir Nicholas Scott, now charged with a motoring offence, and Epping Forest, the seat being vacated by Steve Norris, Minister for Transport.

"There are one or two areas in mind, but I did not want to be selected for any other constituency before I had put my name forward for this constituency. Nearly 40 per cent of my constituency goes into this constituency and I was very much pressed by my own association to put my name forward," Mr Lamont said after his defeat.

"I was well aware of the risks involved. I was well aware of the odds against me. I felt I owed it to them. I did it. I didn't put it off. That's democracy. That's bad luck."

He is also facing tough competition from other senior Tory MPs who have lost their seats to boundary changes, including Sir John Wheeler, another contender for the Chelsea seat; James Arbuthnott, a defence minister, and Sir George Young, the Secretary of State for Transport.

t Virginia Bottomley will next week accuse Tony Blair of attempting to "destabilise" the National Lottery by his announcement that under a Labour government it would be put in the hands of a non-profit-making organisation.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage's attack on the Labour leader's plans to take the lottery out of the hands of Camelot, when its contract ends in six years, will be part of a Tory fight-back at Labour at the Tory party conference.

Brian Mawhinney, the party chairman, will use a working breakfast with journalists today in an attempt turn the tables on Labour after its most successful conference in decades.