TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: Redwood's resignation letter to John Major

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"Dear Prime Minister, I voted for you to be our leader in 1990. I have given you continuous and full support over the last five years in Government.

"I have never allowed supporters of mine to place unhelpful speculation about the leadership in the press.

"My time in the tearoom has been spent urging members to support you and attack Labour.

"On Wednesday I came to see you. I offered a number of ideas to rebuild support for you in Parliament and for us in the country. I explained how this could calm the present position and probably avoid any challenge in the autumn.

"You did not hint at your intended course of action, nor did you tell us at Cabinet on Thursday. When I finally heard of your plans from another Minister I was devastated. Your decision to resign leaves our party in limbo when it needs firm but understanding leadership.

"It makes a contest inevitable. This weekend has shown how strong feelings are, and there is no shortage of people wanting to stand or to support someone other than you.

"It means that the big issues on Europe, taxation and the conduct of Government will now be debated in public rather than around the Cabinet table.

"After the last decision I had no part in the decision which split the Parliamentary party, I kept quiet for the sake of the party. I had suggested a free vote, enabling the Government's business to pass, and the split in Labour to be revealed. I received no answer. I therefore reluctantly decided to tender my resignation from the Government, as I do not support your decision to resign.

"I believe it is vital that the Conservatives win the next election. We must defend our Parliamentary democracy and our nation from damaging constitutional change.

"It is essential we take action now to restore the trust of the British people, in our principles and in our deeds.

"I thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent Wales in the Cabinet. It is a beautiful country, it has been my privilege to serve the Welsh people and it is my very great regret that I shall no longer do so."

The Prime Minister's letter to John Redwood in response to the above said:

"Thank you for your letter offering your resignation which, of course, I accept. I am grateful for your highly effective work in Wales.

"Yours ever, John."