TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: Move to limit challenges

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A change in the rules to stop John Major facing a leadership challenge in November was foreshadowed yesterday by Sir Marcus Fox, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs.

Sir Marcus said the 1922 Committee executive would be seeking to change the rules to prevent the Prime Minister facing the threat each year, because it was destabilising to the leadership. It is likely that once the election is over, the Tory backbench leadership will change the rules to ensure a leadership election can only take place against a Prime Minister once in each Parliament.

"You cannot have the Prime Minister in office challenged every year," he said.

The executive of the 1922 Committee was strengthened in its belief about the need for a change after being given a letter by the Prime Minister at a private meeting on Thursday explaining his reasons for provoking the contest.

"I think the reaction to the letter from the PM was one of support. We must look very carefully and see whether we should change the rules so the Prime Minister can only be elected for a full Parliament. I think there is a good chance that some changes will be made," Sir Marcus said.