TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION STATEMENT : `The party must make its choice'

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The Independent Online
This is John Major's statement in full:

"Let me just make a brief statement to you. I've been deeply involved in politics since I was 16. I see public service as a duty and if you can serve, I believe you have an obligation to do so.

"I've now been Prime Minister for nearly five years. In that time we've achieved a great deal, but for the last three years I've been opposed by a small minority in our party.

"During those three years there have been repeated threats of a leadership election. In each year, they turned out to be phoney threats. Now the same thing again is happening in 1995.

"I believe it is in no one's interest that this continues right through until November. It undermines the Government and it damages the Conservative Party.

"I am not prepared to see the party I care for laid out on the rack like this any longer.

"To remove this uncertainty I have this afternoon tendered my resignation as leader of the Conservative Party to Sir Marcus Fox, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, and requested him to set the machinery in motion for an election of a successor.

"I have confirmed to Sir Marcus that I shall be a candidate in that election.

"If I win, I shall continue as Prime Minister and lead the party into and through the next general election.

"Should I be defeated, which I do not expect, I shall resign as Prime Minister and offer my successor my full support.

"The Conservative Party must make its choice. Every leader is leader only with the support of his party. That is true of me as well.

"That is why I am no longer prepared to tolerate the present situation. In short, it is time to put up or shut up. I have nothing more to say this afternoon. Thank you very much."