TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: Leading lights reflect on the cleverest 'bastard'

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"John Redwood is an interesting politician but not as interesting as he thinks he is to the wider public." That was the blunt assessment of David Mellor, former minister and Major confidante, as Tories battled over the intellectual, political and inter-personal skills of the Cabinet's cleverest "bastard" and moral crusader.

Mr Mellor told Alistair Stewart's GMTV Sunday Programme that he would "bite my lip on questions of John Redwood's stature" - but did not demur from the frank warning from Sir Bernard Ingham, press secretary to Margaret Thatcher during her premiership. Mr Redwood would be "mad" to stand, said Sir Bernard. "I did admire him as a head of Mrs Thatcher's policy unit, but as a politician I think he leaves something to be desired by way of charisma."

On BBC 1's Breakfast With Frost, Sir Edward Heath was echoing another Ingham line. "Who knows anything about him?" demanded the former prime minister. "Nobody. We want somebody who's going to restore the confidence of the country and of the EU and of the Americans, in our own party and in our own government. He can't do that. He's made blunders all over the place and in Wales, he's disrespected, so why should he be boosted all the time by the press, except to have a good row."

Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education, chose not to be deflected by the claims of Redwood disloyalty or unpopularity. She issued a thinly veiled warning to him not to stand in the first ballot - while pointedly declining to rule herself out as a contender in a second. "I know John Redwood rather well ... and I think very highly of him indeed," she told Sir David Frost. "He is a brilliant man and he is a man of integrity."

Edward Leigh, the former minister who was last week busily "facilitating" a possible challenge from Norman Lamont, was torn between what the two right-wingers could offer. "John Redwood is a man of outstanding integrity and intellect and he has the virtue of being a member of the present Cabinet," he told Sir David "... that's, I mean, I also admire very much Norman Lamont, but we don't know whether John Redwood is going to stand."

Tory right-wingers lined up to offer their support for the intellect of the Secretary of State for Wales and fellow of All-Souls. But it was all getting too much for Sir Bernard: "What I think is so amazing and ludicrous is the way in which we are 'Waiting for Godot' ".