TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: Vulcan expands but fails to fill the spaces

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The Independent Online
After the adrenalin-charged super-crush of his opening assault, John Redwood has been operating in ever less enclosed surroundings. Yesterday morning he was holding court in the wide, open spaces of the Central Hall at Church House, Westminster.

This is where the General Synod of the Church of England convenes, the place where there are doors marked "Laity Noes" and "Clergy Ayes", a place reeking of politics so real and nasty even John Gummer can't take the heat there any more.

In the plasterwork above the chamber, there are words to stiffen the resolve of any candidate: "Them that endure in the heat of the conflict [shall] inherit a home of unfading splendour wherein they [shall] rejoice with gladness evermore." Or at least until the lease on No 10 has to be handed over at the next election.

Like a nightclub that becomes instantly unfashionable the moment everyone can get in, however, the bigger the venue, the less worth catching the Redwood roadshow has become. Yesterday with no new names to announce, no new policies to reveal, the only thing his team had to show was a letter from a member of the public, flourished excitedly by David Evans, Mr Redwood's noisiest supporter.

"PS. I don't know if you need any money for your campaign," read Mr Evans. "But I enclose pounds 10 anyway." Good to have Henry Root on board, then.

Mr Redwood himself had brought along a couple of soundbites. "I'm not telling you how many ministers have given me their support because you'd be surprised at the number," was one, a comment that could be taken either way.

"Brussels should learn you cannot harmonise the dachshund and the English bulldog by cross-breeding," was his favourite, if the strange muscular twitchings at the corner of his mouth were indicative.

Mr Redwood's second public appearance of the day was in even less claustrophobic surroundings. College Green, over the road from the Palace of Westminster, is where MPs go to enjoy their lunch-time doughnuts (as short television interviews are known). At a card table set up in one corner, could be found Mr Redwood patiently waiting to lay out his policy to Radio 4's The World at One. He sat there for his turn, in silence, not wishing to catch the eye of those scrumming around to watch British democracy in action. And no wonder: Jonathan Aitken was among them. It seemed a mad thing to do, to be interviewed live at a card table on a public highway, but Mr Redwood escaped without any hindrance. No one from the Major team distracted him, no one shouted "Hello Mum".

As he strode into the Commons to resume the business of collaring colleagues, Mr Redwood breezed past the queue of people waiting to gain access to the public gallery for Prime Minister's Questions.

"Who was that?" asked Lar Soler, from Mount Holly, New Jersey, staring at Mr Redwood.

Somebody told her. "OK," said Ms Soler, who was in London for three days. "I guess he's the guy they put up who couldn't win, but who would clear the way for the guy they really want to replace the guy they got. Right?" Tomorrow Ms Soler will be at Lord's, explaining the LBW law to passing tourists.

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